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UN Ponders Haiti's Reconstruction as Mass Relocation Starts

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Ten days after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, the United Nations is considering reconstruction programs and hundreds of thousands of homeless are being moved out of the ravaged capital.

While the UN continues to provide emergency aid to Haitians, its Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and former US president and special envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton on Thursday signaled an initial strategy to begin reconstruction in the quake-ravaged country.

"We will now have to move from the emergency response phase to ongoing relief and early recovery, and eventually to the reconstruction of the Haitian economy," Ban said in New York after a closed-door meeting with Clinton.

Reconstruction could begin immediately, said Clinton, who suggested nationwide initiatives such as the reforestation of mangroves or accelerated investments in resort ventures outside of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The UN, along with the World Bank, the International Development Program and the European Commission, had begun working on a post-disaster assessment, Ban said.

On January 25, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes and head of the UN Development Program (UNDP) Helen Clark will attend a meeting on Haiti's short- and long-term reconstruction in Montreal, Canada.

In Port-au-Prince, order is slowly being restored, with shops starting to reopen on Thursday and banking services expected to resume on the weekend. The capital's port, which was destroyed by the earthquake, has been restored to receive limited shipments of aid.

The Haitian government on Thursday began to move the masses left homeless to temporary accommodations outside the capital.

"A large operation is taking place. We're in the process of relocating homeless people," Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime said.

The first wave of relocation would move 100,000 refugees to tent villages designed to hold 10,000 people each near the northern town of Croix Des Bouquets, he said.

As many as 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless by the quake, and the government has arranged free transportation to move about 500,000 of them outside the quake-ravaged capital, where infrastructure is devastated and people live in overcrowded camps with poor sanitation.

The International Organisation for Migration estimated that at least half a million people are now living in some 447 improvised camps, and warned the number was climbing.

As 43 international rescue teams with nearly 2,000 rescuers still remain at work in Haiti, more aid has been promised.

Liu Zhenmin, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said Thursday that China would contribute an additional US$2.6 million in cash and send a 40-member medical care and epidemic prevention team to the Caribbean country.

The new Chinese contribution followed a January 13 decision of the Red Cross Society of China to donate US$1 million in cash to Haiti, Liu said. "On January 15, the Chinese government announced its decision to provide 30 million yuan (about US$4.4 million) worth of humanitarian emergency supplies to Haiti," he said.

The World Bank said Thursday it would waive payments on Haiti's debt for the next five years and work to find a way to cancel the remaining debt of about US$38 million.

According to UN estimates, more than US$1.2 billion have been pledged to aid the country.

(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2010)

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