Haiti quake death toll tops 200,000

PM’s new estimate comes as UN appoints Bill Clinton to lead relief operations.

The quake destroyed 250,000 homes and left much of capital Port-au-Prince in ruins [EPA]

The number of deaths from last month’s earthquake in Haiti has exceeded 200,000, the prime minister says.

Another 300,000 people have been treated for injuries, 250,000 homes destroyed and 30,000 businesses lost, Jean-Max Bellerive said on Wednesday.

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The latest figures, revised up from the government’s previous figure of 150,000 dead, come as the UN named Bill Clinton, the former US president, to lead the co-ordination of international relief efforts more than three weeks after the Caribbean nation was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

Martin Nesirky, a Clinton spokesman, told a press briefing that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, wanted Clinton “to assume a leadership role in co-ordinating international aid efforts from emergency response to the reconstruction of Haiti”.

‘Strategic guidance’

He said Ban had asked Clinton, who is also the UN special envoy for Haiti, to “provide strategic guidance to the United Nations involvement at an international level” to “ensure that there is coherence” in the delivery of aid.

The UN is banking on Clinton’s clout to speed up and sustain relief efforts [AFP]

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said the UN is hoping Clinton will be able to lead not only the enormous effort to meet the immediate needs in Haiti but also in its reconstruction in the long term.

Clinton said the goal was to “get the Haitian people back where they can stop living from day-to-day and start living from week-to-week or month-to-month and then start the long-term efforts”.

“They, the leaders there, want to build a functioning, modern state for the first time, and I will do what I can to faithfully represent and work with all the agencies of the UN and help them get it done,” he added.

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

An enormous amount of clout is required to sustain the international funds flowing into Haiti for the rebuilding effort, our correspondent said, and the hope is that Clinton will be the one to pull this off by wielding the “influence and power he has behind him and the contacts he has in his contact book”.

Haitians protest

Angry Haitians desperate for food aid staged protests across the capital [AFP]

Before the long-term rebuilding can even begin, however, angry protests have flared across the Haitian capital over complaints that aid delivery remains sluggish despite the massive operation in the past three weeks.

“The Haitian government has done nothing for us, it has not given us any work. It has not given us the food we need,” Sandrac Baptiste said bitterly as she left her makeshift tent to join angry demonstrations on Wednesday.

In separate protests after a tense night when shots were fired in the capital Port-au-Prince, some 300 people gathered outside the mayor’s office in the Petionville neighbourhood.

Another 200 protesters marched towards the US embassy, crying out for food and aid, and about 50 protestors gathered late on Tuesday outside the police headquarters where the Haitian government is temporarily installed.

Detained Americans

Meanwhile the 10 Americans from an Idaho-based church group detained in Haiti are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday as Haitian prosecutors determine whether to file charges for suspected child abduction.

“We’ve been working through the questions the Haitian government has and we’re looking for the best way forward… We take this very seriously”

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State

The 10 were arrested last week trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic without the required documents, according to Haitian officials, who called them child traffickers.

An investigating magistrate in Port-au-Prince questioned five men in the group on Wednesday, after interrogating the women a day earlier.

The 10 have denied they were involved in child trafficking and Haitian police say some parents admitted to handing over their children to the 10 Americans in the belief they would get an education and a better life.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state and Bill Clinton’s wife, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the actions of the 10 Americans were “unfortunate”.

She said the group should have kept to proper procedures in trying to help children in the quake-hit nation.

“It was unfortunate that, whatever the motivation, this group of Americans took matters into their own hands,” she said.

The US state department has been at pains to avoid any impression it might be interfering in the matter, but the secretary on Wednesday said for the first time that Washington was “engaged in a discussion with the Haitian government about the appropriate disposition of their cases”.

“We’ve been working through the questions the Haitian government has and we’re looking for the best way forward… We take this very seriously,” she added.

Bellerive said the case was stealing attention from the plight of Haitians.

“I believe it’s a distraction for the Haitian people because they are talking more now about 10 people than they are about 1 million people suffering in the streets,” he said.

Source: News Agencies


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