UNITED NATIONS – Countries and international organizations pledged nearly $10 billion on Wednesday to rebuild Haiti after January’s devastating earthquake, going far beyond the government’s expectations and providing new hope to the impoverished nation.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that nearly 50 donors pledged $9.9 billion “for the next three years and beyond,” demonstrating that the international community had come together “dramatically and in solidarity with the Haitian people” to help them recover from the quake.
Haiti had appealed for $3.8 billion for the next two years. The U.N. chief said the $9.9 billion includes pledges of $5.3 billion from governments and international partners for the first 24 months of reconstruction.
“We have made a good start,” Ban told a news conference at the end of the daylong donors conference. “We need now to deliver.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who co-chaired the conference, called the pledges “an impressive sum by any standard.”
In the first minutes of the conference, Clinton announced the United States’ pledge of $1.15 billion over the next two years and Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign affairs chief, announced the EU’s pledge equivalent to more than $1.6 billion.
That totaled more than two-thirds of the $3.8 billion Haiti was seeking.
It was not immediately clear if all pledges were new money, as some delegates appeared to be describing existing aid projects.
The Jan. 12 earthquake destroyed the government and commercial center of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Government-estimated death tolls – which rose without explanation ahead of the conference – range from 217,000 to 300,000 people. Most of the estimated 1.3 million people left homeless are still sheltering on broken streets, hillsides and riverbeds.
Some officials praised the conference as a milestone for both Haiti and international aid efforts.
“I hope what it will do is give confidence to people in Haiti that the international community has not lost interest, they are absolutely there with them, that there is a plan for the future,” U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes told AP.
But others were skeptical that the aid pledges would be fulfilled.
A spokesman for the aid group Oxfam, Philippe Mathieu, said that after 1998’s Hurricane Mitch struck Central America, less than a third of the $9 billion promised materialized.
“Soon these pledges will need to turn into concrete progress on the ground. This cannot be a VIP pageant of half promises,” he said in a statement.