CARICOM secretary general bemoans slow Haiti aid disbursement

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana — As the first anniversary of earthquake that rocked Haiti on 12 January 2010 approaches, secretary-general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Sir Edwin Carrington has bemoaned the slow disbursement of the aid promised by the international community to support the reconstruction in the CARICOM member state.

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Sir Edwin Carrington, CARICOM Secretary General

Delivering remarks at the opening ceremony of the high level CARICOM-Australia meeting at the Georgetown, Guyana Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat earlier this month, Carrington said the Community was “more than a little distressed” with the reality.

The International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti convened by the United States and the United Nations at UN Headquarters, New York, USA in March 2010, had accrued pledges of $5.3 billion for the next two years and $9.9 billion for the next three years and beyond, to reconstruct Haiti.

To date, Carrington said, a mere 10 percent of the pledges had been honoured.

“With the numerous challenges which Haiti has had to endure, not only in the wake of the earthquake, there is no doubt that there continues to be an urgent need for these resources,” the secretary-general said.

Against this backdrop, he said that it was “particularly reassuring and indeed heartening” that Australia was among those few countries which had lived up to its word and its commitment to Haiti, by actually disbursing the $24 million in funds which it pledged to assist in the redevelopment and reconstruction of Haiti.

Australia’s prompt and substantial response directly to Haiti as well as through CARICOM’s Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), has been “very greatly appreciated” by the Government and people of Haiti and by the Caribbean Community at large, Carrington added.

The secretary-general also noted CARICOM’s appreciation of Australia’s “timely contribution” of $1 million to the United Nations Haiti Cholera Appeal to assist Haiti in the fight against the current cholera epidemic.

“We must commend your government for recognizing the severity of this latest challenge in Haiti’s struggle towards recovery, and for its generosity which we hope will serve as a benchmark for other international donors,” Carrington said.

He stated that the Community would deeply appreciate if Australia were to lend its voice to that of the Caribbean Community, in urging the international donor community to make good on the pledges and promises made to Haiti for its recovery and reconstruction.

Director-General of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Peter Baxter said that Australia appreciated the opportunity to partner with CARICOM in providing assistance to Haiti.

Baxter stated that his country has recognised and applauded the leadership demonstrated by CARICOM in “leading the world” in providing “effective assistance and coordination” of efforts to improve the situation of the people affected by the January 12 earthquake and the recent cholera pandemic.

While noting the donations accrued already to assist in the reconstruction of the earthquake-torn country, Baxter said the international community will not get a passing grade.

“I think it is fair to say that one year on, when people look at the records of what has happened in Haiti, the international community will not get a passing grade,” the AusAID Director-General said.

“We have to do better; we have to ensure that over the next year we make some real improvement in reconstruction; the provision of clean water and sanitation; and the rebuilding of institutions to provide education, health and public administration.

“We will use our voices in the international community to call upon others who have made pledges, but have not yet delivered,” Baxter said.

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