Haiti says it needs 5-10 years of help

Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:14pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and Arshad Mohammed

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Haiti needs at least five to 10 years of reconstruction help after its people were "bloodied, martyred and ruined" by the devastating earthquake this month, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said on Monday.

"The people of Haiti will need more and more and more in order to complete the reconstruction," Bellerive told an international aid conference, intended to survey immediate needs and then begin plotting Haiti's long-term recovery.

"I bring you the thanks of a people who have been bloodied, martyred and ruined but who are standing," he told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and representatives of 10 other countries.

The conference heard of immediate needs but also began to look beyond to a strategy to rebuild from the January 12 earthquake that killed up to 200,000 people and smashed the capital Port-au-Prince.

A key theme that emerged was the importance of ensuring development and population was not so concentrated in Port-au-Prince, which sits right on a fault line.

"In 30 seconds, Haiti lost 60 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product)," Bellerive said, referring to excessive centralization in the capital. "So we must decentralize." He noted that already people had streamed from the capital.

Clinton said agriculture, which can act as a magnet back to the countryside, had not gotten the attention it deserved.

"I was quite heartened to hear the prime minister say that ... we should look at how we decentralize economic opportunity and work with the Haitian government and people to support resettlement," she told reporters.   Continued...