Clinton: Help Is On The Way To Haiti

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After his trip to Haiti, Former President Bill Clinton said desperately needed U.S. aid is coming despite delays. Haitians displaced after a devastating earthquake nine months ago complain of living in a sprawling homeless camp, and lack of food, jobs and housing. Host Michel Martin gets an update from Jonathan Katz, Haiti correspondent for the Associated Press, about what is holding up the much needed money.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

It' Columbus Day. It's a day off for many in the U.S., and we're going to talk about who is being celebrated and why and where. It's also about Columbus Day observances in other parts of the hemisphere.

But first, former President Bill Clinton is back from Haiti, where he had hoped to reassure the Haitian people that the aid they so badly need for rebuilding everything from houses to hospitals to schools is really on its way.

President BILL CLINTON: We still have many schools to build, many teachers to train, many learning materials to get, and a plan that will have universal enrollment. That's the most important thing, but we need a lot of money for it.

MARTIN: It's been nine months since that devastating earthquake in Haiti, and we want to know what has really changed. Whether a million Haitians are still living on the streets or in massive tent cities build for temporary housing, only 10 percent of the planned temporary shelters have been built, and just 2 percent of the rubble from the earthquake has been cleared. And all this has a lot of people asking, where is all that international aid that's been promised?

We wanted to know more, so we've called down to Port-au-Prince. The Haiti correspondent for the Associated Press Jonathan Katz has been with us from time to time reporting on the money trail that should be going to Haiti's long-term reconstruction. He's with us again now. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

Mr. JONATHAN KATZ (Haiti Correspondent, Associated Press): Yeah, thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So what was the purpose behind former President Clinton's visit to Haiti?

Mr. KATZ: He actually had two official capacities in Haiti. He is the United Nations special envoy, which he's been since 2009, and he's also the co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, which is tasked with overseeing all the reconstruction aid that is coming in that was promised at the March 31st donors' conference.

So he was here in those official capacities to actually head up the third meeting of the commission and approve more than $770 million worth of projects. But he also was here to visit people, and he went into a tent camp and shook hands and heard out the residents, and then gave a speech in which he assured people that the long-promised U.S. reconstruction aid, which has not shown up at all so far, is indeed on its way.

MARTIN: Now, the U.S. has pledged quite a substantial sum, and you're saying it has not shown up at all?

Mr. KATZ: That's correct, not one penny of it. The United States has spent more than $1.1 billion on humanitarian aid for Haiti. Most of that was in the immediate wake of the January 12 earthquake.

But on March 31st, at a donors' conference at the United Nations in New York, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised on behalf of the United States $1.15 billion in reconstruction aid. It's now October, and so far, absolutely none of that has shown up.

MARTIN: Why not?

Mr. KATZ: The one-word answer is essentially bureaucracy. There's sort of a complex and byzantine and, in the words of President Clinton, bizarre process that it has to go through to fully get approved and then doled out correctly.

MARTIN: Is this known in Haiti that the money has been so long delayed that it hasn't been received and because of systems, you know, in the U.S. - is this commonly known?

Mr. KATZ: It's become big news here, actually, over the last week or so. People who were paying very, very close attention to the details, they certainly know. And, of course, the Haitian government has known all along, even if they weren't talking about it very much.

But what people generally know when they are living in the tent cities or in cracked homes that they have moved back into since the earthquake is that things haven't really changed very much. And what they see in their own lives is that they are still suffering, and they're still dealing with the same things that they were dealing with nearly nine months ago, after the earthquake, and in some ways worse.

We were hit by a storm on September 24th that really came out of absolutely nowhere and ended up killing five or six people here in the capital and destroying about 8,000 tents.

So people are very aware that promises of aid were made and that those were supposed to make their lives better. And all they know is that their lives haven't improved.

MARTIN: And who do they blame for that?

Mr. KATZ: They blame their own leaders, who they feel should have been doing more somehow. They may not be able to explain exactly what the leaders should have done, but that they should have done something more to help.

And like I said, everybody here knew when that donors' conference happened on March 31st that billions and billions of dollars had been pledged in reconstruction aid. People were very encouraged by it, and they know that it is now October and that that has not come through.

MARTIN: And finally, to the whole question of leadership on the Haiti side, presidential elections are next month, and big news of course in the U.S. is that the rap star Wyclef Jean had made a bid for the office, that he was deemed not to be qualified because of his residency and so forth. So is the campaign in full swing there? And is there a front-runner? Is there a lot of interest?

Mr. KATZ: There's certainly a lot of interest. Politics is a big pastime here, along with being extremely important. Campaigning is more or less starting, the postering and graffiti-ing and the official billboards have gone up.

The candidates who have been approved to run on November 28th are getting their names out there. But essentially, it's a little too early to say, even still, almost two months away, who the real frontrunners are going to be.

MARTIN: Jonathan Katz is the Haiti correspondent for the Associated Press. He has been reporting on all the aid money that is not making its way to Haiti, at least has not yet, as well, as the presidential elections there. And he joined us from Port-au-Prince. Jonathan Katz, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. KATZ: Thank you.

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