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Haiti remembers its dead

Yesterday Haiti’s President, Rene Preval, launched two days of remembrance by laying a wreath on a hill just north of the capital Port-au-Prince. The dusty hillside at the St Christophe burial ground is marked with lines of black crosses showing where tens of thousands of earthquake victims were buried in mass graves. Two banners across the site where up to 200,000 of the dead rest, simply say “January 12, we will never forget.

On the anniversary of the disaster, Barack Obama admitted “too much rubble continues to clog the streets, too many people are still living in tents and for so many Haitians progress has not come fast enough”. Yet the US President also drew attention to “the largest humanitarian efforts ever attempted” by the aid organisations who poured into Haiti to help its people.

The former US President Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, also spoke of being encouraged by how much faster debris had been cleared in the last few months. Mr Clinton also attended the signing of an investment agreement for a new industrial park to be built in northern Haiti. Here a leading South Korean garment manufacturer aims to create 20,000 jobs in the area, which would make it the largest private sector employer in the country. Jobs are desperately needed by ordinary Haitians and Mr Clinton promised to use the example of the Korean company Sae-A “as a whip to lash” other private sector firms into making investments in Haiti.

Bekele Geleta, the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has called on the international community not to lose sight of “the huge amount that has been achieved”. Despite all the work which is yet to be done and the many obstacles there are to overcome, Mr Geleta highlighted the generous donations of communities across the world which allowed life-saving assistance and care for the people of Haiti following the earthquake. And while Mr Geleta cautions that the recovery process from here on is likely to “take years, perhaps even a generation”, with better co-ordination and leadership, the work taking place now represents the “best chance to turn Haiti’s fortunes around”.

The Secretary General of the Red Cross concludes by expressing solidarity with the people of Haiti as they mourn and by extending a promise to continue to work with the Haitian people, engaging them as partners in their own recovery. In this way, Mr Geleta hopes the country can “pave the road to a better future.” All those organisations involved in the work throughout Haiti would wish to join Mr Geleta in these sentiments.

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