6 Feb 2010

Bill Clinton apologises for slow Haiti aid distribution

6:59 pm on 6 February 2010

Former United States president Bill Clinton has apologised for the slow pace of aid distribution in Haiti since the earthquake last month that killed 212,000 people and devastated the small Caribbean nation.

Appointed international aid co-ordinator by the United Nations, Mr Clinton was visiting the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, where he told an angry crowd that the infrastructure that would ordinarily respond to such a disaster was terribly damaged.

"All the ministers, thank God, survived, but they lost a lot of their family members and they lost a lot their senior aides," he said of the Haitian government, adding that the UN itself had suffered the largest single loss of life in itshistory.

"I'm sorry it's taken this long," the BBC reports Mr Clinton saying, "but...what I'm trying to do now is to identify the things that aren't being done and need to be speeded up, and fill those blanks. I'm doing the best I can."

Half a million living in makeshift camps

According to the UN, many people are living near the rubble of their homes and some half a million are packed into more than 300 makeshift camps that have sprung up around the city.

Mr Clinton said several thousand new tents would arrive in the next few days to help some of those still sleeping on the streets, along with a hundred trucks to help distribute more aid.

He said he would be looking at the structure of the aid operation to see how it could be made to function in a more effective way.

"Part of it is just shipping the volume of food in here that is necessary," he said, adding that there was also a considerable distance between the 16 main food distribution centres in the country.

Ten missionaries sent back to jail

Meanwhile, the 10 American missionaries charged with kidnapping children in Haiti have been taken back to prison after a judge refused to grant them conditional release.

The five men and five women were arrested when they tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the country following the earthquake.