Disaster in Haiti: The Economic Toll

HaitiAs Haiti turns to recovery after last week?s massive earthquake, development experts and U.N. officials say they expect the country?s gross domestic production to fall about 25 percent this year. They add that the $7 billion economy could take more than 20 years to fully recover from the devastation.??The quake is believed to have caused far greater destruction than hurricanes and other natural disasters that plague Haiti. About one third of the buildings in Port-au-Prince, including five government ministries, and in surrounding towns are destroyed, leaving more than 2 million people homeless. More than 200,000 people are believed to have died and 250,000 people need urgent medical care.

The UN said it has received $195 million toward its $560 million appeal for Haiti, and another $112 million has been pledged. Priorities for Haiti include continued humanitarian assistance, security and stability and reconstruction of the economy, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a press conference on Thursday.???The UN has also launched a ?Cash for Work? program with $40 million in funding and has already put 400 Haitians to work, with plans to employ another 300 by the end of the week. The Food and Agriculture Organization also on Thursday called for stepped up efforts to boost Haiti?s ability to recover by supporting the nation?s agricultural industry.

Two-thirds of Haitians depend on agriculture for a living. The sector is still reeling from the damage inflicted by four tropical storms in 2008. January 12?s 7.0-magnitude quake wrecked storage facilities and irrigation canals, a setback for the country?s exports, mainly apparel, manufactures, oil, cocoa, mangoes and coffee. ???The FAO said the deadline for action is the spring planting season, which begins in March. Haitians consume about one million tons of cereals a year, 37 percent of which are grown locally. The FAO has a staff of 73 in Haiti distributing $4 million worth of food aid. Haiti has a population of about 9.6 million, about 3 million of whom live in Port-au-Prince. Per capita income is about $560.