We are still with you, Ban tells Haitians

PORT-AU-PRINCE: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday promised Haitians that the world has not forgotten the quake-torn nation as it suffers from a shortage of shelter and growing violence in teeming camps for the homeless.

Security issues and the risk of flooding and disease in the squalid tarp-and-tent cities are pressing concerns for governments and international aid groups struggling to help hundreds of thousands of victims of the January 12 disaster, which killed an estimated 230,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.

Making his second visit to Haiti since the quake, the UN leader met President Rene Preval and discussed plans for a UN donors conference in New York on March 31 to fund Haiti’s reconstruction. Ban said his message to Haiti’s government and people is that “even if time passes, the world has not forgotten. The world is always at their side.” Haiti needs money for schools, infrastructure, roads, ports and electricity, Ban said at a news conference.

And “for the foreseeable future, the government will need international assistance simply to cover its payroll,” he said. A government statement said the tax department expects to collect only a third of its expected annual take of 13 billion gourdes ($330 million). Duties on imports are the government’s main source of income.

UN humanitarian chief

John Holmes said last week that the United Nations is struggling to raise the $1.44 billion needed to help earthquake victims this year.