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At a glance: Haiti

Former US President Bill Clinton praises crisis response by UN and UNICEF in Haiti

© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Ingram
Former US President Bill Clinton greets staff at the UN mission's logistical base on the second day of his visit to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

By Simon Ingram

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 24 March 2010 – During a visit to Haiti yesterday, former US President and UN special envoy Bill Clinton praised the United Nations for its response to the devastating 12 January earthquake, saying now was the time to help the country escape its impoverished past and build a better future.

Mr. Clinton addressed UN staff during his third trip to the Haitian capital since the disaster. He singled out the role that UNICEF plays in tackling the profound sanitation and public health problems caused by the quake, which killed more than 220,000 people and displaced many more.

"Water challenges affect children more than anything else," Mr. Clinton said, adding that a large percentage of children's deaths after an emergency are caused by waterborne illnesses.

"A lot of lives are going to be saved because of UNICEF," he noted.

Chance for 'a brighter future'

Mr. Clinton highlighted what he saw as an opportunity to rebuild better than before in Haiti. "In spite of this horrible earthquake," he said, "this is the best chance [Haitians] have ever had to escape the darker chapters of the past and build a brighter future."

He went on to remind aid workers about the importance of helping the people of Haiti "become what they've always been capable of becoming, but never had the chance to become."

"We're getting there, and we will get there," Mr. Clinton told UN staff. "More than anything else, I want you to know I am profoundly grateful to you."

Donor conference upcoming

Named a UN Special Envoy to Haiti last year, Mr. Clinton visited the country in advance of a critical 31 March UN donor conference in New York, where Haitian officials will ask for $11.5 billion in reconstruction help.

An estimated 3 million people have been affected by the disaster in Haiti, including about 1.26 million children. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced. In and around Port-au-Prince, many are living in crowded, unsafe spontaneous temporary settlement sites and lack basic shelter as well as social services.

On Monday, Mr. Clinton and former US President George W. Bush met earthquake survivors camped on the Champs de Mars, a city park that is currently home to 60,000 displaced people. The park is one of the sites where UNICEF and its partners are delivering water and sanitation services.



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