Haiti Must Lead Reconstruction Efforts, Charity Board says

The board of directors for US-based charity Church World Service (CWS) has "strongly affirmed" the need for Haitians to lead development and reconstruction efforts in the wake of the country's devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

In a March 11 "Statement for a Just and Compassionate Response" to the Haiti emergency, the CWS board affirmed "the need for a Haitian-led broad-based development strategy and planning, in which the Haitian people and their community leaders are fully participant, and which includes rebuilding of infrastructure with attention to disaster risk reduction, creating growing economic opportunities, and addressing the need for greater food production capacity within Haiti."

The group also reiterated its call for all international aid to come in the form of grants and not loans, and said that aid should be given on the basis of several principles including a Haitian-led reconstruction effort, the inclusion of women in the recovery process, and the use of existing plans such as Haiti's National Strategy for Growth and the Reduction of Poverty (DSNCRP).

Other principles to be followed included decentralized development, strategies to mitigate risks related to future natural disasters, protection for vulnerable populations, continued cooperation with the United States, and the use of additional funds for reconstruction rather than diverting funds from other humanitarian and development efforts worldwide.

"As a gracious God extends mercy and acts with justice and compassion, so the human family is called to extend aid to those in need without seeking reward or repayment. Jesus says, 'Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,'" the statement says.

"The tragedy occurring in Haiti must call forth our own and the world's most compassionate response and elicit a more just future, one that rejects the hunger and poverty of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere," it continues.

Meanwhile, the Haitian government is currently finalizing drafts of a 15-year plan for the country's reconstruction which it will present at an international donors conference on March 31 in New York.

Drawn up by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, the plan envisions a brand new Haiti with development spread across the country rather than centralized in Port-au-Prince and is expected to carry an initial price tag of $1 billion to $3 billion.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a joint statement with Haitian President René Préval on Wednesday, said that the United States will remain committed to its relief efforts in the quake-ravaged country, which lost thirteen more lives at the end of February due to poor sheltering from heavy rains.

"The situation on the ground remains dire and people should be under no illusions that the crisis is over," Obama said after a meeting with Préval, adding that "the challenge is now to prevent a second disaster" with the coming raining season.

The United Nations, meanwhile, has been struggling to raise funds for its $1.4 billion revised flash appeal, with emergency shelter and sanitation remaining as priorities.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be visiting the Caribbean country on Sunday to meet with Préval, Bellerive and leadership of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) as well as visit camps where displaced Haitians are being sheltered.

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