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Clinton arrives to help Haiti
Former US president meets officials as mission to boost relief effort begins.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2010 03:45 GMT

Clinton is in Haiti to deliver aid and to assess how to help rebuild the country's infrastructure [AFP]
 

Bill Clinton, the former US president, has arrived in Haiti in an attempt to bolster efforts to help an estimated one million people more than three weeks after an earthquake hit the Caribbean nation. 

Shortly after arriving in the devastated capital Port-au-Prince on Friday, Clinton visited the makeshift headquarters of the country's government to discuss plans for the international relief effort.

About 200 people from a neighborhood in northern Port-au-Prince gathered outside the building to complain that they were still without shelter.

"Our children are burning in the sun. We have a right to tents. We have a right to shelter," Mentor Natacha, a 30-year-old mother of two, said.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, rescue operators struggled to get aid out to earthquake victims and many aid groups called for greater co-ordination.

'Leadership role'

Clinton was appointed to an "expanded leadership role"for the international aid effort by Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general on Wednesday.

special report
Special Report: Haiti earthquake

"More than three weeks after the earthquake, the relief efforts in Haiti have been increasing to meet staggering needs, but the long road to recovery has just begun," Clinton said before setting off for Haiti.

Jonah Hull, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Port-au-Prince, said that Clinton's mission was larger than simply addressing the basic needs of the people struggling to get shelter, food and water.

"He will also need to look, more importantly, towards the long-term recovery of this country - rebuilding infrastructure, in many cases from the ground up," he said.

"And also he will need to rebuild the economy, working with international partners to make sure markets are open to Haitian produce rather than subsidised international imports flooding into this country.

"He will be working alongside the United Nations, of course, as it co-ordinates the ongoing aid effort inside Haiti," Hull said.

"Mr Clinton's role is not to be directly involved in the distribution of aid, his role is to co-ordinate the international partners, the donors, the money. He has got to get the money flowing, he has got to keep in flowing and he has got to make sure it is going in the right direction to rebuild this country."

International focus

Haitians at a food distribution centre in Port-au-Prince said that Clinton's visit would keep the world focused on their plight. 

"He is going to help us to keep faith, he is going to help us carry on to live," Jean Baptiste, one victim of the quake, told Al Jazeera.

"We all know that the situation is very bad for us and we keep faith that with his visit we are going to live better than ever."

During Friday's trip, the former president and husband of the US secretary of state is also expected to visit the Gheskio medical clinic in Port-au-Prince.

The Clinton Foundation in New York said he would be delivering "water, food, medical supplies, solar flash lights, portable radios, and generators donated by Home Depot [and] Walmart".

Last week, Clinton urged corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davosto use the Haiti catastrophe as an opportunity to lift the devastated nation out of generations of poverty.

'Kidnapping' case 

Meanwhile, a lawyer for 10 US citizens charged with kidnapping more than 30 childrenthat they attempted to take out of Haiti following the quake has said that he will ask for his clients to be freed until their trial.

The US citizens were arrested as they tried to cross the border with 33 children [Reuters]
Edwin Coq, the defence attorney representing the missionaries, told reporters he would ask the judge at a closed hearing being held on Friday  to grant "provisional release" - a type of bail without money needing to be posted - for the Baptist missionaries.

Coq has said that the group's leader, Laura Silsby, knew she could not remove the youngsters without proper paperwork, but he characterised the other nine missionaries as unknowingly being caught up in actions they did not understand.

"They were naive. They had no idea what was going on and they did not know that they needed official papers to cross the border. But Silsby did," he said.

The Baptist group, most of whose members are from two Idaho churches, had said they were rescuing abandoned children and orphans, but at least two-thirds of the children involved in the case have parents.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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