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Haiti's Rebuilding Needs Sustained Support

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Ten days after a catastrophic earthquake shattered Haiti, the relief effort has been gradually shifting from searching for survivors to rebuilding the country.

That's a daunting task for the ravaged Caribbean island nation and the international community.

Despite complaints about the government's weak response and criticism from some leaders such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the relief effort has been widely hailed so far.

A large number of homeless Haitians have secured tents for their families and food has been reaching tens of thousands of people in Haiti, though the need still remains for much more.

Tensions ease as order returns, but occasional gunshots can still be heard and most of the infrastructure in the capital Port-au-Prince is either missing or barely functional.

About 43 international rescue teams with nearly 2,000 rescuers still remain at work. The UN World Food Program has delivered at least one million rations to about 200,000 people.

According to UN estimates, more than US$1.2 billion have been pledged to aid the country. The UN also announced the deployment of 3,500 additional peacekeepers in Haiti and the United States is also sending more troops.

New challenges, meanwhile, are emerging. Supplies of food, water and shelter are still inadequate and survivors in remote areas still await rescue.

There are worries, too, about sanitation, an outbreak of disease and social discontent. The possibility of reoccurring disorder lingers.

An apocalyptic earthquake like this will lead to far-reaching consequences for the impoverished nation that already had been dealing with ongoing political and social disorder.

On the one hand, it's not easy to allocate international aid to meet the immediate needs of the Haitians due in part to a weak government that has relied on UN peacekeepers since 2004 to maintain peace and stability.

On the other hand, it's even harder to maintain a long-term course of reconstruction. World Bank President Robert Zoellick noted Wednesday that it's vital that when the cameras leave that international support stays with Haiti.

For the long run, therefore, the rule of law should be rebuilt and good governance be enhanced. In the meantime, with the commitment of Haiti's people, the government, and the international community, a sustained inflow of relief aid should be secured.

An international donors' conference is to be held in Montreal on Monday, another step expected to help raise more funds and to work out a pertinent roadmap for Haiti's rebirth.

Haiti's reconstruction is an opportunity in some ways. The right course will include building new houses and a new order, and clearing off the rubble as well as corruption and crime.

Foreign political interference should be avoided as Chavez has warned.

Zoellick was correct when he said that it's an opportunity to rebuild Haiti better if it is done right.

(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2010)

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