Haiti’s President Urges Follow Through on Aid Pledges

Posted September 23rd, 2011 at 8:11 pm (UTC-5)
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Haitian President Michel Martelly says his country still needs international assistance following last year's devastating earthquake and is urging the global community to make good on its promises to help the country as it recovers.

President Martelly, who took office earlier this year, spoke Friday in his first address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Mr. Martelly acknowledged the difficult global economic climate, but said it is desirable that aid pledges are followed up with action.

The earthquake in January of last year left more than 200,000 people dead and destroyed 30 percent of the country's buildings. Thousands of people still live in tent camps. Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

Separately, the Haitian president told the United Nations that its peacekeepers committed what he called “unacceptable errors” in his country, but that they should remain to help with the stalled post-earthquake reconstruction. He did not specify the errors he was referring to.

Earlier this month, police in Haiti clashed with hundreds of protesters demanding U.N. troops leave the country after peacekeepers from Uruguay allegedly sexually assaulted an 18-year-old man.

Uruguay's president, Jose Mujica, apologized to Haiti, saying Uruguayans were humiliated by the “criminal and embarrassing” behavior of a few of their soldiers. The government also dismissed a naval officer and recalled five soldiers over the alleged incident. The five, who were ordered detained by a military judge in Uruguay, face charges of disobeying orders and dereliction of duty.

Additionally, a deadly cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti last October has left thousands dead. Health investigators linked the outbreak to latrines in the camp of Nepalese troops.

More than 12,000 U.N. troops and police officers serve in Haiti as part of a force created in 2004 to help stabilize the impoverished and politically volatile country. The U.N. increased the size of the force by a third last year following the deadly earthquake. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants the U.N. mission in Haiti extended until October of next year.