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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 20:42 GMT 21:42 UK
Tackling Haiti's chronic problems

By Jill McGivering
BBC State Department correspondent

Villagers in Fond Verettes receive food aid after devastating floods
Haiti desperately needs help
A major donors' conference in Washington has pledged a total of $1bn to help Haiti recover from its current crisis.

The conference - organised jointly by the World Bank, the United Nations, European Commission and the Inter-Development American Bank - was responding to the recent turmoil in Haiti, sparked in February when anti-government riots led to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide leaving the country.

Haiti's chronic poverty is thought to have contributed to the instability.

Haiti desperately needs help. One of the world's poorest countries, it lacks basic infrastructure like roads, bridges and electricity.

Unemployment is about 60%, and about one in every 20 Haitians has HIV/Aids.

It also needs peace. So far, the process of disarming the gangs, who rebelled against Mr Aristide, has hardly started.

Jobs and security

Four months after taking office, the interim government, which promises to hold democratic elections next year, says it has already brought improvements.

The electricity supply has increased from one to 14 hours a day, it says.

Schools are functioning, government taxes are being collected again and a new unit has been established to crack down on corruption, according to the government.

I personally don't believe it is the police force that will solve instability in Haiti. I'm sure when the people get a job, they will give up their arms also
Gerard Latortue
Interim prime minister

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who came to the Washington conference to make the case for funds, says the real need is for development, not peacekeeping.

"The insecurity we have in Haiti - the real cause, the profound cause, is poverty, inequality and underemployment, and if UN wants to do a good job in Haiti they have to put as much emphasis in Haiti on development as to the military aspect," Mr Latortue said.

"I personally don't believe it is the police force that will solve instability in Haiti. I'm sure when the people get a job, they will give up their arms also," he added.

Mr Latortue denies allegations that his interim government is deliberately excluding figures from the former ruling party or carrying out a political vendetta against opponents.

He has spent much of the last four months lobbying hard to persuade the international community to recognise and support him.

Human rights will be respected, he says. Democracy will be restored.

His battle for credibility still isn't won, but he does now have a significant pledge of new cash as well as the support of a UN peacekeeping force which reaches full strength by the end of August.

Rescue efforts have been staged before.

In the mid 1990s, the Clinton administration invested heavily in Haiti - with little success.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that past frustration but added: "We can't give up. This," he said, "is a new start."

The BBC's James Ingham
"Haiti is a desperately poor country"

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Country profile: Haiti
03 Mar 04 |  Country profiles


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