US Envoy to Haiti Urges Patience on Disaster Recovery

Posted March 16th, 2012 at 7:00 am (UTC-5)
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The U.S. ambassador to Haiti says it will take years to complete reconstruction efforts from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

In an interview with VOA's Creole Service, Kenneth Merten compared the pace of reconstruction efforts in Port au Prince to that of New York City's World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the 2011 terrorist attack and is still not completely rebuilt.

“There are a lot of actors on the ground in Haiti, coordinating everybody's work. It's not an easy task. But reconstruction is happening and I think we have to keep pushing and make sure it happens as fast as possible.”

The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed more than 300,000 people and left millions homeless. A cholera epidemic following the quake claimed several-thousand more lives.

The ambassador says the reconstruction has been complicated by problems with Haiti's infrastructure, which was in poor condition before the disaster, and a “limited capacity of government,” as many officials were killed in the earthquake. He also noted the surprise resignation last month of Prime Minister Garry Conille after just seven months in his post.

“We hope as partners of Haiti we hope they work that out as quickly as possible because there are certain things that cannot happen without a government in place. We are eager and anxious to continue our work. I would encourage all actors to put a government back into place as soon as possible.”

Merten says he is proud the United States had a “very big, positive impact” in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, by helping deliver food, water and shelter to the victims.

“There were a lot of other actors on the ground as well. They are all doing their part. But it was a very difficult period. I think in large part because of the support we were able to bring because of the capabilities we had with the U.S. military and because of where we're located geographically, very close to Haiti.”

The ambassador also told VOA there was no concern about two former Haitian leaders, Jean-Bertrand Aristide and former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, living in their native land years after they were each forced into exile. Merten says the fact that both men are apparently staying out of politics is a sign that Haiti is a “mature, or maturing democracy.”