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article imageUN asks Bill Clinton to lead Haiti operations

By Chris Dade     Feb 3, 2010 in World
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday asked former U.S. President Bill Clinton to play a leadership role in the UN's efforts to provide relief for the victims of the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake, and help rebuild the devastated country.
Clinton and Ki-moon met at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday morning. Clinton has been the UN Special Envoy for Haiti since May 2009.
After the meeting, Ki-moon told journalists Clinton "has hit the ground running" and will be arriving in Haiti on Friday.
While the UN announcement of Clinton's new responsibilities in Haiti does not contain any comment from the former U.S. President, who is working with his successor George W. Bush to raise money for the humanitarian effort in Haiti, Bloomberg quotes Clinton as saying:
The trick is to get the Haitian people back where they can stop living from day-to-day and start living from week-to- week or month-to-month and then start the long-term efforts. They, the leaders there, want to build a functioning, modern state for the first time, and I will do what I can to faithfully represent and work with all the agencies of the UN and help them get it done.
One priority in Haiti is to find shelter for the more than 1 million people who are currently homeless in the country. Ki-moon said "tents alone will not suffice" because of the upcoming rainy season that arrives in May for four months. After that, a hurricane season arrives and lasts for an additional three months.
As with all the other problems in Haiti, the shelter issue will be tackled by the UN in conjunction with "national governments, NGOs (non-government organizations) and the private sector."
According to Reuters, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky called Clinton an "internationally renowned, highly visible, high-profile individual," who is respected by both leaders and businessmen.
Reports indicate UN member states back Clinton's appointment largely because of his international experience, including experience in dealing with disasters. Clinton worked in Haiti in 2008 as it was recovering from four hurricanes and he maintains influence with U.S. authorities.
On Feb.17, Clinton will launch a fresh appeal for funds for the UN relief effort in Haiti. The original appeal target of $562 million is expected to be reached, although Reuters puts the target at $575 million, 82 percent of which had been raised by the end of last week.
Other updates on the situation in Haiti, where the expected death toll remains at 200,000, include news of the coupon-based food distribution program initiated on the weekend by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
And while the WFP said making women responsible for distributing the food made sure "the weakest don’t get left behind." Voice of America reported on a person living in one of the "tent cities" near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, who warned food was not necessarily reaching those most in need.
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