Former US president Clinton offers help to Haiti

Former US president Clinton offers help to Haiti

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited the mud-stained streets of the Haitian city of Gonaives on Tuesday on his first trip as United Nations special envoy to the poor Caribbean nation, Reuters reported.

Touring with Haitian President Rene Preval, Clinton said his priority was to marshal pledges from donor nations to build road networks, education and health care systems and help the government create 150,000 to 200,000 jobs within two years.

"My job is to try to organize this process and drive it faster," said Clinton, who was appointed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in May.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and many of its 9 million people live on less than $2 a day.

Riots over skyrocketing food prices led to the ouster of the government last spring, followed by the passage of four hurricanes and tropical storms that devastated crops, washed out bridges and flooded seaside towns.

Haiti, ravaged by political violence and dictatorships for much of its history, won $1.2 billion in debt relief from the World Bank, IMF and other creditors this month, freeing up an estimated $50 million a year to spend on other projects.

In April, donors pledged $324 million over two years to help rebuild Haiti. The Inter-American Development Bank said in June it would provide $120 million in grants next year to improve infrastructure, basic services and disaster prevention.

Clinton visited a temporary hospital for flood victims and greeted Haitians in Gonaives, where mud-stained roadways still bear the scars of flooding that killed about people last year.

"I'm going to meet with donors and others to make sure we create opportunities and jobs for Haitians," he said.

Preval took Clinton on a spontaneous detour to a construction site where crews were using bulldozers to clear debris from drainage canals and dredge the La Quinte River.

"Bill, come on," Preval shouted as he jumped behind the wheel of a car and drove Clinton to the site himself.

Clinton also visited a mango processing plant and a factory that transforms trash into cooking fuel in a capital slum.

"President Clinton has been interested in Haiti for a long time ... he is giving Haiti a hand by getting investors and other countries involved to invest and to create jobs," Preval said.

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