PORT-AU-PRINCE Haitian interim President Jocelerme Privert on Tuesday played down the international aid response to Hurricane Matthew, saying some promised foreign aid had yet to materialize and that the devastated country was mostly funding its own recovery.
Southwestern Haiti was smashed by the Category 4 hurricane on Oct. 4, which barreled through the southern coast of the poor island nation, killing some 1,000 people and displacing hundreds of thousands.
The storm has most acutely hit farmers in southern rural areas, six years after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled much of the nation’s capital Port-au-Prince, where reconstruction is still ongoing and disillusionment about the involvement of the international community in the rebuilding still runs high.
Privert said the Haitian government had managed and steered aid to the proper channels and had opened up accessibility to many areas that had been cut off after the storm because of flooding, landslides, downed trees and debris.
"Many countries have promised us aid – some support in kind, but others have made promises that have not yet materialized," said Privert.
"What we have done up to now, we have done with public resources withdrawn from the national treasury."
Privert called for the rebuilding of infrastructure and urged investment to the area, which was formerly green and relatively tree-covered in a country that has long had issues with deforestation, saying that the short-term response could not come at the expense of long-term reconstruction.
"The emergency is to assist the displaced people, those who find themselves in temporary shelters, who are deprived of water, deprived of food, of medication," said Privert.
"It’s necessary to bring assistance with haste. The assistance would not need to be of an indefinite nature. We need to make sure that…people can return to their homes, rebuild their lives, restart agriculture to avoid that, after this state of emergency, that the country does not plunge into a food crisis, into a more serious crisis than the one caused by the hurricane."
Before the hurricane, Haiti tasked itself with providing most of the $55 million in funds for a re-do of last year’s presidential elections, which were scrapped due to accusations of fraud.
Parliament appointed Privert to manage a caretaker government until an elected successor could take office.
The vote, scheduled for Oct. 9, was canceled when the hurricane hit and has not yet been rescheduled. An announcement on a new date is expected for later in the week.
“If the (provisional electoral) council asks me tomorrow to publish a presidential decree inviting the people to the polls for such and such date, I will take that decision,” said Privert.
(Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Michael Perry)