Emergency Relief Organization Germany 'Should Show Greater Responsibility Towards Haiti'

At Wednesday's Haiti donor conference in New York, at least 8.5 billion euros will be needed for the country's reconstruction following the January earthquake. In an interview, the head of a major German emergency relief organization criticizes his government's response to the quake, describing it as "weak" compared to other countries.

REUTERS

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Jamann, according to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) an estimated €8.5 billion is still needed for Haiti following the Nov. 12 earthquake. Some are already talking of the need for a Marshall Plan for Haiti. Is that a realistic scenario?

Jamann: If we want to bring Haiti further forward -- rather than just restoring the conditions that existed there before the earthquake -- then Haiti will need even more money. But I find the comparison with the Marshall Plan, which helped in reconstructing Europe after WWII, a difficult one. Despite the damage wrought by war, there were still functioning structures in Europe at that time. This is not the case at all in Haiti.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: At a recent donor conference for Darfur, a lot less money was collected for the nation than the organizers had hoped. Many countries declined to make concrete pledges because they considered the situation in Darfur insecure and unstable. Is there a danger of this happening during the Haitian donor conference?

Jamann: You can hardly compare the Darfur conflict with Haiti. The Sudanese government has no interest in Darfur developing further. The situation in Haiti is different. The government there sees the situation at the moment as an opportunity.

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SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your emergency relief organization, Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action), works closely with the German government. In fact the government provides part of your funding. How is Germany's contribution looking?

Jamann: Our organization has not yet received any money from the German government for Haiti. We have been working exclusively with private donations. But we have received European Union financing for aid for the earthquake victims in Jacmel, in the south of the country. We are concerned that the German government has so far been very reserved in its financial commitments compared to other countries.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How much aid has Germany committed?

Jamann: After the earthquake Germany gave €17 million in direct aid. The United States, as the largest donor, wants to provide the Caribbean nation with around €2.1 billion in support. So compared to other countries, Germany looks very weak. Recently Gudrun Kopp, the state secretary at the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, spoke of €39 million in aid. Haiti may not be a focal point for Germany's development work, but the government should still show greater responsibility towards Haiti. It could offer a lot, such as technological expertise for the reforestation program. That would help push Haiti forward.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you see any chance of Germany raising its offer by March 31?

Jamann: I hope that Germany will travel to the donor conference as a donor -- rather than just listening to what other countries are willing to put on the table.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What volume of donations has been given to Welthungerhilfe for its work in providing Haiti earthquake emergency relief?

Jamann: Around €20 million, which is more than the German government made available in the first two months after the earthquake. Of course we are happy about German citizens' willingness to donate. But this should not lead to lesser efforts by the German government.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Critics say that even before the earthquake Haiti had already been getting international aid for years and that it had not made any noteworthy progress. Are the Haitians unwilling to take responsibility?

Jamann: A large part of this lack of success has to do with bad Haitian governance. This has shaped the land for decades. And through this, a certain mindset has evolved with the motto: "Those above us will not be helping us below anyhow." This is how human beings lose faith in positive, long-term development. But we have seen many Haitians willing to help with post-earthquake redevelopment. The international community now has the opportunity to put a shattered land back on its own two feet. One must not let that chance slip by.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the moment Haiti is still relying on international food aid. There are some who suggest that these measures should end soon, so that local agriculture can get back into gear.

Jamann: The scenario is not as simple as it is being portrayed by some. The people there cannot survive on locally produced food yet. Which is why the food aid should not be stopped overnight. It is planting time at the moment -- after that, it will take another two months for the first harvest.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Area aid organizations on schedule in implementing measures in Haiti aimed at providing shelter to earthquake victims? Many are very concerned about the rainy season.

Jamann: The organizations are doing what they can. But the amount of problems is huge. That is why we cannot say with certainty that everything is well on the way to recovery. The rainy season will wash filth into the camps for the homeless. I am not predicting an epidemic, but we will definitely see more illness. I am also worried about the hurricane season. The tents will not be able to withstand those storms and I am not sure that we are building more stable accommodation fast enough. The Haitian government still has not established appropriate locations. There is hardly any state-owned land, which means that the land required for this purpose is privately owned -- and up until now nothing has been done to address this issue.

Interview conducted by Björn Hengst

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