France pledges 326 million euros in aid for Haiti
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France has pledged to give Haiti 326 million euros in aid to rebuild the country after it was devastated in the 12 January quake, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced today on his visit to the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The 326 million-euro pledge includes cancelling a 56 million-euro debt that Haiti still owed to its former coloniser. Part of the package will also provide training to Haitian civil servants as part of a greater UN-led plan that will be launched in New York at the end of March.
"I have come to tell the Haitian people and their leaders that France, which was first on the ground after the catastrophe, will remain firmly at their side to help them pick themselves up again and open a new happy page in their history," said Sarkozy.
This is the first time a French president has visited the former French colony since gaining its independence in 1804 and becoming the first independent black republic.
Sarkozy was greeted by Haitian President Réne Préval when he arrived. He is slated to meet French rescue teams, NGO organisations, and visit a French-run field hospital.
Earlier, he took a helicopter trip over the capital to view the devastation from above.
The massive 7.1 quake killed 217,000 people and left another 1.2 million homeless.
Aid, especially medical aid, is still desperately needed, according to the World Health Organisation, as they made a plea on Wednesday.
"Our concern is to ask the biggest partners to leave aid there as long as possible, at least six months," said Henriette Chamouillet, WHO representative in Haiti. "It's absolutely necessary because we have to replace the hospitals which won't work," she added.
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