On February 16, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) decided to create a US$300 million fund to help rebuild earthquake-shattered Haiti. Leaders of the continental bloc, convening in Quito, Ecuador, met with Haitian President Rene Preval and agreed to ask the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a low-interest $200 million long-term loan for the fund, while the individual governments will raise another $100 million. As part of this proposed fund, Peruvian President Alan Garcia offered $10 million for school reconstruction and water projects.
Each country's contribution will depend on its capacities and its Gross Domestic Product while the IDB loan will be assumed by all the UNASUR member states. No doubt, this positive action by UNASUR will provide a tremendous boost to its international profile.
In an immediate reaction, the president of the IDB, Luis Alberto Moreno, expressed support for a fifteen- to twenty-year US$200 million loan to supplement the proposed fund.
During his discussions with the South American leaders at this special summit, Haitian President Rene Preval emphasised, not only the need of rebuilding his country, but also of restructuring the nation in order to avoid similar tragedies in the future. He praised the prompt and efficient aid provided by Cuba and Venezuela in the health sector, and commented on a recent agreement with both governments to increase that support.
The proposed UNASUR fund will be used to finance three priority areas of crucial needs identified by the Haitian President.
1) Reconstruction of roads and electricity generation which will need material resources, machinery and the collaboration of engineers to rebuild the country's infrastructure;
2) The redevelopment of the agricultural sector to ensure food production through the donation of seeds, supplies, and fertilisers, support in creating drinking water aqueducts and agricultural irrigation systems, as well as the advice and involvement of technicians.
3) Cooperation in health matters, including the increase of actions recently implemented by UNASUR's Council on Health, such as the collaboration of doctors and experts to take care of injured and sick people and to apply preventive measures against epidemics.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who hosted the meeting called for a sustained regional response based on "South-South cooperation." He explained that the massive and immediate aid provided by more industrialised countries "is not always the most efficient," since "a lot of that is lost over the medium term, leaving the country weak and with serious distortions."
He added that UNASUR member nations should scrap tariffs on Haitian imports and consider subsidising natural gas exports to the shattered nation. He also felt that member countries should consider contributing 25 cents per inhabitant to the US$100 million fund. Further, he proposed promoting at the United Nations the total cancellation of the Haitian bilateral and multilateral debt.