"While the reconstruction of Haiti should be firmly on our horizon, we must not forget the humanitarian emergency that still affects millions of Haitians." With these words, Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, emphasised the continuing humanitarian dimension of the Haiti crisis. She was speaking at a conference in New York for non-governmental organisations involved in assisting earthquake-hit Haiti, which she chaired today with President Bill Clinton.
Mrs Georgieva said: "We need to maintain the momentum after the terrible tragedy of 12 January. On the humanitarian side, while a lot of immediate suffering has been alleviated, there are still two million people who depend on relief assistance. And we are all acutely conscious of the threats posed by weather. Already a lot of people living in tents have experienced the misery of recent heavy rains, and the hurricane season is looming. "
She added: "The ongoing operation to help Haiti has committed and dynamic leadership with Bill Clinton as the United Nations' special envoy. The European Union has played its part from the outset, and we are pledged to support Haiti for the long haul. The work of the NGOs attending the conference is essential to the success of the relief and reconstruction efforts, and I welcome the opportunity to exchange views and experiences with them."
President Clinton is hosting the event, which is one of a series of "outreach" conferences held to obtain input from stakeholders involved in reconstruction in Haiti. Commissioner Piebalgs hosted a similar event in Brussels on 22 March. On that occasion, around 50 NGOs from Haiti, Europe and the US, as well as representatives of the Haitian government discussed how best to combine NGO activities in Haiti with the government's overall national recovery and development strategy. Both conferences are part of the preparatory work and consultations among the donor community leading up to the International Donors' Conference 'Towards a New Future for Haiti' that will take place in New York on 31 March, with the participation of Vice-President Ashton and Commissioners Piebalgs and Georgieva.
The European Union provided fast-track humanitarian aid for Haiti immediately after the earthquake struck with more than €315 million provided by the Commission and EU Member States for relief efforts in the country. This included €120 million channelled through ECHO, the Commission department responsible for humanitarian aid and civil protection under the authority of Kristalina Georgieva. The European Union's Civil Protection Mechanism was activated speedily to help coordinate the work of EU Member States in mobilising civil protection assets, including search and rescue teams. A further €100 million was allocated to help restore government capacity and a package of €200 million was announced for longer term reconstruction and rehabilitation.