Bill Clinton to coordinate Haiti aid efforts

Reuters reports that the United Nations on Wednesday assigned former U.S. President Bill Clinton, now U.N. special envoy to Haiti, to coordinate international relief efforts in the earthquake-devastated country. Clinton will seek to organize a mass of aid initiatives and offers that have poured in since the magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed up to 200,000 Haitians and made up to 1 million homeless on January 12, U.N. officials said.

Three weeks after the quake, a huge U.S.-led international relief operation has been struggling to help survivors. The United Nations, whose mission chief in Haiti and nearly 100 other staff were killed, has admitted early aid efforts were disorganized but says the situation is improving daily.

After meeting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who asked him to assume the new task, Clinton said he was “pleased to take on an expanded role in the recovery efforts” and would learn from disasters like the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Ban “specifically asked President Clinton to assume a leadership role in coordinating international aid efforts from emergency response to the reconstruction of Haiti,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said. “There’s an awful lot of goodwill out there, an unprecedented flow of aid and good intentions and cash, and the idea is to ensure that that comes together in the right way,” Nesirky told reporters.

Ban later told reporters he had asked Clinton to launch a new emergency appeal on February 17 to fund humanitarian efforts for the rest of the year. The United Nations launched its first “flash” appeal — for $575 million — last month and said last Friday it had been 82 percent funded. Nesirky described Clinton as an “internationally renowned, highly visible, high-profile individual,” with an ability to mobilize leaders and businessmen.

The former president would coordinate the work of U.N. agencies, government donors, private investors and non-governmental organizations, the United Nations said. Several diplomats said Clinton had strong backing from U.N. member states and was the right person for the job because he can combine his U.N. authority with his experience and connections in the U.S. government.

The United Nations, which has more than 12,600 troops and police in Haiti, has been overseeing the emergency relief effort in coordination with the U.S. military, which has mobilized more than 10,000 personnel to help the country.

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