The earthquake that has devastated Haiti has wiped out any efforts made in recent years to improve life for people in the Caribbean nation and the world community must start all over again, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Saturday.
“I think important long-term progress had been made, I think it’s safe to say that has been virtually wiped out and we are starting from scratch,” Harper told a news conference in Ottawa on Canada’s ongoing efforts.
The immediate priority for the world community in Haiti is search and rescue and delivering humanitarian aid, but a new effort must be made to improve the standard of living for Haitians in the long term.
“While the interventions and the scale of development efforts in Haiti were already larger, they’re going to have to be that much larger in the future,” Harper said. “I think everybody recognizes to go in and stabilize things for a couple of years and then leave would be a disastrous approach.”
“This time we have to go into Haiti and finish the job,” he added.
Canada is turning to one of its recent commanders in Afghanistan to spearhead relief efforts in Haiti.
Brig.-Gen. Guy LaRoche commanded Canadian forces in Afghanistan for 10 months in 2007 and 2008. He’s also commanded Canadian forces in Bosnia and Cypress.
Laroche is to arrive in Haiti Saturday to coordinate military efforts, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said.
“We need excellent military leadership to coordinate activities on the ground,” MacKay told the news conference. “I have no doubt in his leadership qualities.”
Roughly 200 military personnel are now on the ground in Haiti, the military has brought in 100 tonnes of equipment and supplies to Haiti and two more aircraft will bring more personnel and supplies this weekend.
Two Canadian warships loaded with supplies are getting closer to Haiti and military officials expect them to be off the Haitian coast by Tuesday.
Canadian Forces aircraft continued to evacuate Canadians out of the earthquake torn country Saturday. Since Thursday a total of 460 Canadians have been brought home by military aircraft, MacKay said.
The federal government also announced that it will speed up immigration applications from Haitians with family in Canada. Haitians currently in Canada temporarily will also be allowed to extend their stay.
The extent of the devastation continued to expand in its scope Saturday.
Haiti’s government alone has already recovered 20,000 bodies _ not counting those recovered by independent agencies or relatives themselves, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Associated Press. He said a final toll of 100,000 dead would “seem to be the minimum.”
A total of six Canadians have been confirmed dead in the tragedy.