US pledges more aid to earthquake victims in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The United States pledged another $32 million in aid to the victims of Haiti’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake Thursday, as the country’s interim prime minister defended his government’s response.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power said the U.S. government had learned from the 2010 Haiti earthquake and said USAID was coordinating closely with the government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

“This $32 million of funding will provide additional shelter, health, food, water and other urgent life-saving assistance,” with the input and guidance of the Haitian government, Power said. “Perhaps the most important lesson (from 2010) is that no development agency and no army or diplomatic corps can just import a perfect humanitarian response from afar. You need local expertise and local leadership to reach communities in need.”

The Aug. 14 earthquake killed more than 2,200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless on Haiti’s southwestern peninsula. Power and Henry said providing emergency shelter was the top priority nearly two weeks after the temblor.

Speaking together at the capital’s international airport as U.S. military aircraft ferried people and supplies into the country, Henry said his government was coordinating the relief response despite the turmoil created by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse July 7.

“The Haitian government is facing a lot of challenges,” Henry said. “We have political difficulties, we have economic difficulties, but despite all these issues, we are addressing the challenges of the earthquake.”

He rejected the assertion that the government was in chaos. “The Haitian government is present,” he said. Far more visible since the earthquake have been nongovernmental organizations and U.S. government agencies in the earthquake zone. For days the relief effort was hampered by the inability to safely move relief supplies and quake victims through a gang-controlled area south of the capital.

The government has pledged more security.

Moïse was killed by a team of mercenaries who breached the presidential residence. The investigation into his murder is still underway.

Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent said Thursday, “anyone who has a finger in the killing of the president will face justice.”

Vincent said the new investigating judge appointed this week would have all of the resources he needs to carry out the investigation. The first judge appointed to the case withdrew after four days. Vincent announced $60,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of three fugitives in the case.

“I am asking the population to stay calm and let justice do the work,” Vincent said.