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U.N. appeals for nearly $1.5 billion for Haiti

The United Nations launches a new appeal for nearly $1.5 billion  to help the 3 million Haitians affected by last month's devastating earthquake.
Image: UN distributes Haiti aid
The International Office for Migration(OIM) distributes aid on Feb. 18, 2010 in Port-au-Prince. Heavy rain fell early Thursday in Haiti's capital, forcing more than a million people made homeless by last month's earthquake to scramble for cover and tramp through wet mud. Thony Belizaire / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

The United Nations launched a new appeal for nearly $1.5 billion Thursday to help the 3 million Haitians affected by last month's devastating earthquake.

The appeal, covering needs in 2010, is more than double the U.N.'s initial request on Jan. 15 for $562 million to help quake victims for six months.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his special envoy for Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, were launching the $1.44 billion appeal at a meeting with diplomats from many of the 191 other U.N. member states.

"Before last month's disaster we had a plan for Haiti's long-term development and reconstruction," Ban said. "Our challenge today is to reformulate that plan to help Haitians build back better."

With the rainy season approaching, he said, the top priority is to provide shelter, sanitation and humanitarian assistance.

Clinton told the diplomats the appeal is important to begin long-term rebuilding but first the world must help millions of Haitians living day-to-day and facing many problems: Will their children get diarrhea and die because of contaminated water in camps for the displaced? Will their tents be blown away when the hurricane season starts? Will they have enough food?

"We have to move them from living day-to-day to where people are living month-to-month," he said, and that means building some shelters that can withstand hurricanes, scaling up cash-for-work programs to get young people who are reviving gangs into jobs, and reopening schools.

Donors have already pledged $673 million, said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. That means $768 million is still needed, Bunker said.

Clinton told potential donors "it is very important not to have courtesy commitments."

"If you can't give what you wish you could, pledge less and give it — and do it sooner rather than later," he said, promising that all donations will be tracked on a Web site in a transparent way.

According to the U.N., more than 1.2 million Haitians need emergency shelter and urgent santitation facilities and at least 2 million need food. Help is also needed for families and communities that have taken in quake victims who fled Port-au-Prince and other badly affected cities.

The new appeal also seeks funds to revive agriculture, provide emergency telecommunications, manage camps for the displaced, improve nutrition and start early recovery programs including cash-for-work.

While emergency humanitarian relief efforts will have to continue for many months, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said, "we have to be engaged in Haiti for the long haul, for life-saving relief as well as reconstruction."

The U.N. said the size of the revised appeal — covering about 30 percent of Haiti's population — reflects the scale of the catastrophe, the unmet needs, and the need to put in place the right early recovery programs that will lay the basis for later reconstruction.

The Jan. 12 earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and left 1.2 million homeless.

The largest U.N. appeal for a natural disaster before Haiti was the 2005 request for $1.41 billion for the Asian tsunami that struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim and left 230,000 people dead.