Haiti’s president appeals for more tents

Haitian President Rene Preval has made an urgent appeal for more tents to house up to a million people left homeless by the quake two weeks ago.

Mr Preval said 200,000 tents were needed before the expected start of the rainy season in May.

His call came as donor nations and international organizations met in the Canadian city of Montreal to assess the aid effort and plan the next steps.

Delegates at the meeting agreed Haiti would need long-term outside help.

“It was not an exaggeration to say that at least 10 years of hard work awaits the world in Haiti,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Montreal meeting.

Haiti’s government could lead efforts to rebuild the country in the wake of the devastating 12 January earthquake, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said.

But Mr Bellerive said “massive support” from the international community was needed.

The delegates agreed to hold an international donors’ conference at the UN headquarters in New York in March.

It is believed the 7.0-magnitude quake killed as many as 200,000 people. An estimated 1.5 million people have been left homeless.

Shelter

On Monday, President Preval issued a statement from Port-au-Prince, calling for the urgent airlift of 200,000 more tents and 26 million ready-to-eat meals before the rainy season begins in May.

Mr Preval, who lost his house in the quake, is planning to move into a tent on the lawn of the destroyed National Palace in the centre of the capital.

The Haitian government is planning to relocate some 400,000 people, currently in makeshift camps across the capital, to temporary tent villages outside the city.

“We have to evacuate the streets and relocate the people,” Reuters quoted Communications Minister Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue as saying.

“We hope we will be able to start at the end of the week.”

However, aid workers warn if the camps are too big they could pose security problems, including robberies, rapes and gang activities.

Oxfam was pressing for the camps to be smaller, spokeswoman Caroline Gluck told the BBC.

Aid agencies are still struggling to supply food and water to survivors, while thousands of Haitians who suffered serious injuries remain in need of urgent medical attention.

“The relief effort is getting into gear,” John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief told the BBC.

“But we’ve still got an awful long way to go to reach all those we need to with food and water.

“On the medical side, we’re getting there, and we now face a big challenge over shelter and camps and getting people into tents and off the streets.”