PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – International relief officials on Sunday turned their attention to finding shelter and getting aid to the hundreds of thousands who survived the most devastating natural disaster in Haiti’s history.
With a key donors conference set for today in Montreal, Haiti’s leaders and the international community focused on finding the money and expertise needed to rebuild the quake-stricken Caribbean nation.
As part of the strategy, the United Nations is hoping to put hundreds of Haitians to work in cleaning up their battered city by removing rubble, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a meeting with former President-turned U.N. Special Envoy Bill Clinton.
“By creating jobs, by creating work for all these people, this would contribute to revitalize their economy,” Ban said.
He asked Clinton to work on a program that would employ young men and women who can really devote themselves to the early phase of recovery: cleaning the streets and cleaning demolished places, as well as other economic activities.
While celebrities have been raising money for Haiti through private initiatives, Ban said the United Nations Development Program’s appeal for $41 million on behalf of Haiti is getting tepid response.
“We have not yet received much response from the international community. We hope to have a generous, positive support for that. By creating jobs, by creating work for all these people, this would contribute to revitalize their economy,” he said.
On Sunday, search-and-rescue efforts continued at a few locations scattered about the city. But nearly two weeks after the massive earthquake, the chances of finding survivors appeared slim.
For two South Florida rescue groups, the mission in Haiti is over. They left Port-au-Prince on Sunday morning on buses en route to the Dominican Republic, said Capt. Pete Gomez, a spokesman for Florida Task Force 2.
“I can confirm that our efforts have stopped,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, Haiti communications minister, told the Associated Press on Sunday the death toll continues to climb. She said it has topped 150,000 just in the area of Port-au-Prince, with thousands more dead around the country.
Earlier estimates pegged the potential death toll at about 200,000 people.
Adding to the daunting task facing Haiti and international relief efforts are the homeless. An estimated 600,000 people do not have shelter in Port-au-Prince, the United Nations has said. Thousands are living in squalor in makeshift settlements.
On Saturday, officials with the International Organization for Migration said they had found two more sites – one in the capital and another in Leogane to the southeast – to build temporary tent settlements. One settlement to be developed in Route de Tabarre can house 4,000 people, who will be moved from the grounds of the prime minister’s office, according to Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the IOM.
The Haitian government will set up several sites in the area surrounding the capital to move people from the camps to tent settlements with “basic services.”
The organization said it needs more tents to house the homeless. It currently has 20,000 family-size tents, but needs about 100,000 to hold about 500,000 people.
As Haiti shifts its attention to recovery and rebuilding Port-au-Prince, health officials and doctors worry about the spread of disease.
On Saturday, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and U.S. Agency for International Development established a public-health surveillance system to begin tracking emerging health threats in some of several hundred makeshift camps that are housing the homeless.
Their aim is to keep health threats from escalating. Public-health experts said they fear an outbreak of disease such as measles could cut through the camps rapidly, causing more deaths.
“It’s not as dramatic as broken bones, but we’ve got to think long term what we can do to make sure nothing spreads,” said Lise Martel, a public-health advisor for the CDC.