The prime minister of Haiti has said that his country needs at least five to 10 years of reconstruction help after its people were "bloodied, martyred and ruined" by the devastating earthquake this month.
Jean-Max Bellerive said on Monday at an international aid conference that "the people of Haiti will need more and more and more in order to complete the reconstruction".
The conference in the Canadian city of Montreal was not intended to bring specific aid promises but to assess immediate needs and begin charting Haiti's long-term recovery from the January 12 earthquake.
"We're trying to do this in the correct order. Sometimes people have pledging conferences and pledge money and they don't have any idea what they are going to do with it," Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said at a closing news conference.
The group said it would hold an international pledging conference at the UN headquarters in New York in March.
'Partners, not patrons'
"We actually think it's a novel idea to do the needs assessment first, and then the planning, and then the pledging," Clinton said.
Clinton also said Washington would stand by Haiti in its efforts to work towards reconstruction.
"It's important that we see ourselves as partners of Haiti, not patrons; that we work intensely together to produce results that can be seen and felt by the Haitians themselves," she said.
Echoing that, Bellerive said efforts to rebuild Haiti must be led from inside the country, rather than by foreign governments or aid organisations.
"Haitians continue to work in precarious conditions but it is in the position to assume the leadership expected of it by its people in order to relaunch the country on the path to reconstruction," he said.
Haiti's government says at least 150,000 people were killed and many tens of thousands more made homeless by the 7.0 magnitude quake that left much of the capital Port-au-Prince in ruins.
Bellerive said Rene Preval, the president, had called him to press for an additional 200,000 tents for people who lost their homes.
But John Holmes, the UN emergency relief co-ordinator, said stronger temporary structures would be needed for Haiti to face the start of the rainy season in April and hurricanes in June.
|UN peacekeepers fired into the air but could not keep back a crowd rushing for aid [AFP]
"Tents, while the only shelter solution available quickly enough now, will not be much good for these purposes," he said.
Josue Andre from the Peasants Association of Fondwa grass roots development organisation, told Al Jazeera that Haitians were "really overwhelmed by the situation".
"We are in need of medicines, water, tents, and food," he said.
"But we also need psychological help. The people's minds were really attacked by what happened, and it was something no one expected."
A key theme that emerged at the Montreal conference on Monday was the need to ensure development and population were not so concentrated in Port-au-Prince, which sits right on a fault line.
"In 30 seconds, Haiti lost 60 per cent of its GDP [gross domestic product]," Bellerive said, referring to economic focus on the capital. "So we must decentralise."
Clinton said agriculture, which could act as a magnet back to the countryside, had not got the attention it deserved.
"I was quite heartened to hear the prime minister say that ... we should look at how we decentralise economic opportunity and work with the Haitian government and people to support resettlement," she told reporters.
More than 100,000 people have already left the streets and crowded tent cities of Port-au-Prince to find refuge elsewhere in the country, and the Haitian authorities are encouraging the exodus, offering free bus rides to take them to the southwest and north.
But many more remain in the shattered capital where clashes broke out on Monday between local residents clamouring for supplies and UN peacekeepers attempting to distribute the aid.
The crowd of hundreds at a food distribution site in front of Haiti's demolished presidential palace pressed forward as people were being chosen in pairs by UN staff members to go forward to get food and water.
Firing their guns into the air, the UN troops attempted to quell the melee, but were unable to hold the crowd back when it surged forward and took over the truck which held the supplies.