Aid after Haiti earthquake: President René Préval sees need for shift
Almost two months after the Haiti earthquake, President René Préval is in Washington to outline his plan for the kind of aid Haiti needs next. It includes seeds and fertilizers for this summer’s crops.
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Countering the criticism Préval and the Haitian government have endured since the earthquake, Ms. Forman says, “He’s been moving things behind the scenes in an effective way.” But, she adds, “He also needs to get out front so people see something from the leadership.”Skip to next paragraph
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Judging from comments Préval made before departing Haiti for Washington, he does have some definite ideas on how assistance to Haiti should proceed.
Moving Haitians outside overcrowded Port-au-Prince
He says the emergency phase of recovery is over, and that continued food aid will only disrupt Haiti’s economy. Better to focus on seeds and fertilizers so people can be employed while food is grown locally, he says. At the same time, assisting agriculture would boost the government’s plans to decentralize the population and the economy outside of an overcrowded Port-au-Prince.
“His [Préval’s] plan makes sense, and I think he’ll hear support for it in his meeting with President Obama,” says Mark Cohen, a food-aid specialist with Oxfam America in Washington. What Préval probably means, Mr. Cohen adds, is that seeds and fertilizer should be provided quickly, and that food aid “already in the pipeline” be allowed to “taper off” so that Haiti’s next harvest early this summer is bountiful but does not encounter a glutted market.
Longer term, Cohen says, Préval’s plan will require more than seeds and fertilizer and can work only if better job opportunities, schools, and services are provided so that rural areas become as attractive as the capital as a place to live.
Préval is also looking for a quick inflow of cash to help prepare Haiti for the fast-approaching rainy season. In the heavily damaged capital of Port-au-Prince – where about 1 million people were left homeless, and streets remain clogged with rubble – Préval wants to proceed with building long-term camps and repairing drainage systems.
CSIS’s Forman says Préval’s Washington visit is likely to offer clues as to the “balancing act that is going on” between a weak but functioning government and the pressures it is feeling from outside donors and the international community.
“The Haitian government is well aware of its own weaknesses. It was limited before this disaster and it is limited now,” she says. “But it is a sovereign entity, and for the country’s long-term good the government has to show it has a plan and a voice with which to articulate it.”