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Haiti Asking For Billions At UN Donor Conference

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UNITED NATIONS — The Haitian government will be seeking about $3.8 billion at a donors conference this week to start rebuilding the country after January's devastating earthquake.

Edmond Mulet, the top U.N. official in Haiti, on Monday urged donor nations to respond generously so that the Western hemisphere's poorest nation can reconstruct hospitals, schools, government buildings, roads and ports.

In addition, he said, Haiti needs to "rebuild and redesign the country in a way that puts ... (it) on the road to growth and modernization."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are chairing Wednesday's fundraising conference. Co-chairs include Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, and Spain – all leading donors to Haiti.

Haitian President Rene Preval will present the country's plan for recovery and development to more than 100 countries expected to attend, the U.N. said.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti and husband of Hillary Rodham Clinton, will also speak.

An assessment prepared by the Haitian government with the support of the international community put the total amount needed for Haiti's recovery from the Jan. 12 earthquake at $11.5 billion.

Helen Clark, head of the U.N. Development Program, said the $3.8 billion sought this week would cover reconstruction costs for the next 18 months and enable the country to begin replacing more than 1,300 educational institutions, more than 50 hospitals and health care centers, courthouses and other buildings that were either destroyed or are unstable.

"Over the longer term, the objective is to see that Haitians are protected from the hurricanes which threaten them every year and from other natural disasters like the quake," she said. "Disaster risk reduction has to be at the heart of the recovery effort."

In addition to the damage, the quake killed an estimated 230,000 people.

In February, Ban and Bill Clinton launched a separate humanitarian appeal for $1.44 billion to help 3 million Haitians affected by the quake this year with food, medicine, shelter and other basic needs. Clark said just under half of that amount has been raised.

Mulet noted that Wednesday's donors conference will not be the first time the international community has met to raise funds for Haiti.

"We hope that this time we will get it right," he said. "I think the international community is co-responsible for that weaknesses of Haitian institutions and the Haitian state."

He warned that failure to aid Haiti development could result in "a peacekeeping mission and international interventions in Haiti for the next 200 years."

The reconstruction effort will be run for the first 18 months by an interim agency chaired by Haiti's prime minister and a representative from the international community, with a board comprising the country's largest donors, Mulet said.

It will identify projects and distribute funds and, after 18 months, a Haitian agency will assume full control, he said.