PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Representatives from more than 55 countries met on Wednesday in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to discuss Haiti's future after January's devastating earthquake amid worries that this year's hurricane season might cause another disaster in the earthquake ravaged nation and concerns about the slow disbursement of donations pledged so far.
Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, who is hosting the event, said during the inaugural speech that there is much to be done in Haiti following the catastrophic devastation caused by the 7.0 earthquake that hit the nation on January 12.
"In only 30 seconds, more than 300,000 people were injured; in just 30 seconds, more than one million people lost their homes; in just 30 seconds, Haiti lost 120 percent of its GDP; in just 30 seconds thousands of children were made orphans, thousands lost their most close relatives, and thousands were left in anguish," Fernandez said.
Much of Haiti's infrastructure was destroyed by the quake, which left more than 200,000 people dead.
Fernandez said that while there has been a great outpouring from the international community, there have been delays in the disbursement of the pledged help, at a time when the Haitian government is looking for funds to cover its fiscal obligations.
"At this time, for the Haitian authorities to be able to function adequately, they require support to be able to meet their budget needs in the amount of 262 million dollars. The monies need to be available in their national accounts before the month of September," Fernandez said. "We hope that by the end of this summit, President (Rene) Preval can bring to his fellow citizens the good news that this commitment has been obtained here, in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic."
Following the quake, the international community and multilateral organizations agreed to provide Haiti with more than US$ 15 billion in aid during the next decade.
Leaders participating in this summit – in addition to Preval and Fernandez, also include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, OAS General Secretary, Jose Miguel Insulza, and IADB President, Luis Alberto Moreno – gathered to discuss specific action plans to help Haiti get back on its feet.
But as its name suggests, the Solidarity Beyond the Crisis Summit is designed to address not only what the country needs in order to recover from the earthquake, but also what is needed for its long-term economic growth.
The discussions revolve around a number of main themes, including the reconstruction of the infrastructure devastated by the quake, the adoption of measures seeking to improve social conditions and improve the country's ailing institutions, measures to protect the environment and to preserve the country's religious and cultural traditions.
"Haiti was already facing a very difficult situation before the earthquake. We shouldn't only heal the wounds caused by this earthquake. We must develop the economy, we must develop the agriculture, we must develop the education and health, create jobs and strengthen democratic institutions," Haitian President Rene Preval said before the meeting.
And there is also the need to protect the more than 1.3 million people left homeless amid predictions of a very intense hurricane season.
"We have more than one million people that are currently living in very precarious conditions, in camping tents," stated Clinton, who is the United Nation's Special Envoy to Haiti. "We can not allow for people to die during this Hurricane Season because they inhabit temporary dwellings."
The Haitian government and the international community have been working on identifying and designing areas where the displaced might be taken in case of a hurricane, but there is still much to be done since there are a limited number of buildings left in the country that are able to withstand hurricane force winds.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Caribbean and the U.S.'s East Coast will see the development of between 14 and 23 named storms in the season beginning in June first. Eight to 14 of those are expected to become hurricanes. The numbers are just shy of the 29 storms and 15 hurricanes registered in 2005, year that produced the likes of Katrina and Wilma.
ABOUT THE WORLD SUMMIT ON THE FUTURE OF HAITI:
The World Summit on the Future of Haiti is a meeting of the international community called by the Government of the Dominican Republic to seal a sustainable commitment with Haiti, so that it may recover not only from the earthquake of last January 12, but also from the historical isolation and poverty it has faced for over 200 years. Under this premise, the President of the Dominican Republic, Dr. Leonel Fernandez, issued the first invitation at the meeting of the Rio Group held in Cancun, Mexico this past March. http://cumbrehaiti.com/site
SOURCE World Summit on the Future of Haiti