World starts to shift focus on relief, reconstruction in Haiti

BEIJING, Jan. 20 -- Countries and world organizations Wednesday started to shift the focus of quake relief in Haiti to immediate assistance for survivors and plans for reconstruction more than a week after the catastrophe.

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A Haitian child queues to receive aid supplies in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 20, 2010.

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday called for a multilateral aid plan to rebuild the earthquake-devastated country like the U.S. "Marshall Plan" that helped rebuild Europe after World War II.

"My belief is that Haiti -- which has been incredibly hit by different things: the food and fuel prices crisis, then the hurricane, then the earthquake -- needs something that is big," said Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the Washington-based IMF.

"Not only a piecemeal approach, but something which is much bigger to deal with the reconstruction of the country -- some kind of a Marshall Plan that we need now to implement for Haiti," he said in a statement.

The IMF last Thursday promised an interest-free loan of 100 million U.S. dollars in initial emergency funds to the Haitian government to support essential activities and finance urgent imports.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) announced on Wednesday an ambitious plan to hire local Haitians for recovery efforts.

"Time is of the essence in getting early recovery after a major disaster," said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, who visited Haiti on Sunday.

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A Haitian woman queues to receive aid supplies in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 20, 2010.

By the end of the week, 1,100 Haitians will be paid about 5 U.S. dollars a day for work that includes removing rubble, doing street repairs and restoring essential infrastructure, such as electricity.

The first phase of the cash-for-work program will focus on Carrefour-Feuilles, a neighborhood just south of the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince.

The initiative will soon be extended to other earthquake-stricken locations, including Leogane and Jacmel. Once fully operational, the project will employ 220,000 people, indirectly benefiting around 1 million Haitians, according to the UNDP.

A 6.1-magnitude aftershock, the most powerful since the Jan. 12 temblor, hit Port-au-Prince at dawn on Wednesday. Although there were no reports of new casualties yet, the quake sent fresh quivers to the already traumatized Haitians.

Food has reached only around 7.5 percent of local people who are suffering from last week's 7.3-magnitude earthquake.

Haiti's Civil Defence Department estimated on Tuesday that the quake has killed 75,000 people, injured 250,000 and left 1 million homeless.

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Soldiers transport goods at the harbor in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 18, 2010. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the country on Jan. 12, 2010. The rescue work still continues.

Traffic paralysis, mountainous terrain, collapsed infrastructures and disrupted telecommunications services have prevented aid from quickly reaching the victims.

Doctors Without Borders has complained of obstacles in getting badly needed medical supplies to Haiti. Five of its planes have been diverted from Port-au-Prince to the neighboring Dominican Republic.

"These planes carried a total of 85 tons of medical and relief supplies," said a statement from the French-founded organization.

The U.S. aid mission said Wednesday that the main port in Haiti that had been damaged in the quake is reopening for service on Friday. A French vessel has already begun unloading aid supplies at Port-au-Prince, it said.