Bill Clinton urges business leaders to help Haiti

Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:47am EST
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DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton appealed on Thursday for global business leaders to help Haiti rebuild after the earthquake which devastated its coastal capital and killed as many as 200,000 people.

Clinton, the United Nations special envoy for Haiti, said there was an immediate need for cash to help fund food and water distribution and to provide safe and sanitary shelter for people made homeless in the January 12 disaster.

"There are serious unmet food and water needs. Part of it is the distribution system does not exist," Clinton told the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.

"Right now we need cash more than anything else," he said, adding there was also a need for pickup trucks to help distribute supplies. "I need 100 yesterday."

But he also appealed for long term investment to help the country recover. Citing what he said was a quadrupling of Rwanda's economy in the decade following its 1994 genocide, he said Haiti had strong investment potential.

"I also believe a country can rise from the ashes in a very short period of time," he said." This is an opportunity to reimagine the future for the Haitian people, to build what they want to become, not rebuild what they used to be."

The quake devastated Port-au-Prince and thrown the country into chaos. Twenty thousand commercial buildings and 225,000 homes have collapsed or must be razed.

In Washington, the International Monetary Fund approved an additional $102 million in funding for Haiti and said it would disburse $114 million to the government by the end of the week to help with rebuilding after the earthquake.

Doctors in Haiti say the quake had created a litany of health problems, including perhaps tens of thousands of new amputees. With many hospitals and clinics destroyed, there was little chance they would get the therapy they need, doctors said.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans, Editing by Lin Noueihed)

<p>Former President and UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton addresses delegates at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>