Ambassador wants stable relief

2010-01-20 08:47

Washington - Haiti's ambassador to the United States called on Tuesday for an end to the chaotic helicopter drops of earthquake aid, saying the general population needed stable relief.

"We don't like it... because when they make (aid) drops, only the strong get it," said ambassador Raymond Joseph. "There should be staging areas where the helicopters can land" and supplies handed out, he said.

Joseph spoke at a candlelight vigil outside the Haitian embassy in Washington one week after a devastating 7.0 earthquake slammed the impoverished nation.

At least 75 000 people had been killed, 250 000 were injured and a million left homeless by the quake, the Haitian government said on Tuesday.

"When the earthquake hit, all the ministries were down. All the people who should be co-ordinating the aid were nowhere to be found. It took us two to three days to find where everybody was," Joseph told AFP.

"I think now, if the aid is not distributed, it's time for us to start pointing fingers," he added.

"Now the aid is there, at the airport - let's get it out," he said.

'In unity there is strength'

Around 60 people gathered at the embassy and held up their candles during a 90-second moment of silence starting at 16:53 - the exact time the earthquake struck on January 12.

Joseph acknowledged to the well-wishers that his country had "been beaten down".

But the ambassador struck a note of hope as dusk fell in the US capital and more candles were lit for new arrivals.

"We are like the reed: we are bent, but we are not really broken. We ask you to stand with us as we work to put Haiti on its feet," he said.

Rallying quake survivors and Haitians in the United States, the ambassador recalled the historic independence cry emblazoned on the national Haitian flag: "L'union fait la force," or "In unity there is strength".

That is "how we got our independence, and that's how we are going to work together, and that's how we are going to rebuild Haiti", he said, saying he never tired of using the phrase.

US troops fanned out across the ruined Haitian capital on Tuesday as part of the enormous recovery operation there, while the United Nations said over $1.2bn had been pledged for aid funding.