Hurricanes, economy cost Haiti $1b

Associated Press / April 7, 2009
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UNITED NATIONS - Haiti's impoverished economy has been battered by $1 billion in damage from last year's hurricanes and a drop in money transfers from Haitians working abroad caused by the global financial crisis, the top United Nations envoy to the Caribbean nation said yesterday.

Ahead of next week's donors conference in Washington, Hedi Annabi told the UN Security Council that continued humanitarian aid is crucial to ensure that many Haitians get enough food and are able to send their children to school.

He said international assistance also is needed to generate immediate jobs as well as longer-term development to help Haiti escape its role as the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

"It can only do so with the continued, strong support of external partners," Annabi said.

He expressed hope the April 14 donors conference will provide funds for immediate road rebuilding and steps to lessen the impact of future hurricanes and for longer-term investments to improve ports and electricity and revive the private sector, especially the garment industry.

Haiti's government also needs $125 million so it can meet its $256 million budget for the current fiscal year, Annabi said.

The shortfall is a result of the government spending emergency funds last year during four hurricanes that killed nearly 800 people.