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Haiti seeks food and shelter so displaced residents can survive the coming weeks

Humanitarian efforts have begun across the world in response to the devastating earthquake that struck near Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince late Tuesday, Jan. 12. U.N. officials say an accurate count of those killed in the 7.0-magnitude quake might never be known.

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By Glenn Kessler and William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

MONTREAL -- Haiti's government made an emotional appeal for more aid Monday, asking for food to feed 1.5 million people for 15 days, as international donors gathered for a conference here to attempt to organize an orderly path to recovery for the quake-devastated nation.

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"We need your help now," Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told representatives of about 20 nations and multilateral organizations.

Haitian President René Préval issued a communique saying his country needed 36 million emergency rations of food just to get through the next few weeks and 200,000 tents immediately.

In Port-au-Prince, the Haitian government confirmed the death toll at 112,250 and rising, with an additional 194,000 people injured. Lewis Lucke, the U.S. special coordinator for relief and reconstruction in Haiti, said the estimated number of homeless had climbed to 800,000.

The day-to-day functioning of government remains disrupted. The Haitian government lost so many of its buildings that it is now camped at a federal police facility formerly occupied by its SWAT team. Meetings with top Haitian officials take place under a tree. United Nations officials have been given permission to politely decline to attend meetings in Haitian government buildings they deem too unstable to stand the continuing aftershocks.

But new aid efforts are underway or being planned. Lucke said the U.S. government will lease its abandoned embassy near the Port-au-Prince port to the Haitian government for $1 a year.

In Montreal, foreign donors agreed that any nation seeking to help rebuild Haiti should make a commitment of at least 10 years to the cause. The prime minister acknowledged that his country still had no estimates of how much foreign aid ultimately would be needed.

U.N. officials in Haiti have talked about the need to rebuild large sections of the capital -- to move roads, infrastructure and multistory buildings away from the active and dangerous fault line that crisscrosses the city.

Mindful of the possible scope of the rebuilding, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the United States will host a donors' conference in March, to be held at the United Nations' headquarters. She said the key donors -- led by the United States, Canada, Brazil, the European Union and France -- were trying the "novel idea" of conducting a needs-assessment study before planning and then raising the necessary funds.

Clinton, joined by other foreign ministers gathered here, insisted that "this is truly a Haiti-led effort," even though the government currently is barely functioning. "It is important that we see ourselves as partners of Haiti, not patrons," Clinton said.

Bellerive dismissed reports that Haiti was seeking an immediate infusion of $3 billion, saying the government had only the glimmerings of its reconstruction needs.

Speaking earlier to representatives of donor nations, he said that it was "very difficult for me to speak of reconstruction" when the country's government is still struggling to regain its footing.


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