May 15, 2006

World Bank official urges quick aid for Haiti

By Tom Brown

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - International donors must
work quickly to help Haiti's new government stabilize the
country and start tackling the desperate poverty and violence,
a senior World Bank official said on Monday.

Heaping praise on President Rene Preval, who took office on
Sunday, Caroline Anstey, World Bank Director for the Caribbean,
called his election "a great beacon of hope" for Haiti.

Preval, a one-time ally of ousted President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, is Haiti's first democratically-elected leader in
more than two years.

Sounding a similar note to Preval himself, Anstey said
there were no short-term fixes for the poorest nation in the
Americas. But a democratic election marked a new beginning for
a country often seen as a poster child for failed states.

"Haiti will need long-term support and long-term resources
to really be able to enter onto a path of sustainable
development and break what has been a cycle of conflict,
instability and poverty," Anstey told Reuters.

An aid umbrella group for Haiti -- a 26-member body known
as the International Cooperation Framework -- will meet on May
26 in Brasilia to discuss calls by Preval for new funds.

Anstey suggested Preval had given the meeting a sense of
urgency with recent warnings that Haiti's latest experiment
with democracy, and the chance to build a better future, could
be eroded by a lack of international support.

"I think there is a very strong feeling that the window of
opportunity is there but it's not going to be there forever,"
said Anstey. "Both the new Haitian authorities and the donors
need to move fast," she added.

Haiti needs far more aid than the estimated $700 million
that the ICF has paid out since $1.08 billion was pledged in
July 2004 and Anstey noted other unstable nations were
competing for the same pool of international funds as Haiti.

"There is a lot of attention right now, rightly so, on
Sudan, on Liberia, and there's continued attention on
Afghanistan," said Anstey.

Anstey said donors have often lost interest in Haiti, where
the average inhabitant lives on less than $2 a day and over
half are malnourished.

"Donors have had a history in Haiti of coming in with big
money and, within two years, pulling out. We need to see that
spigot of aid turned on and remain on," Anstey said.