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Helping Hands from Korea
Earthquake ravaged Haiti receives financial and humanitarian aid from Korea
Helping Hands from Korea
  • By matthew
  • March 15, 2010, 00:00
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Following the powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, as well as the several strong aftershocks, help immediately started to flow into the small Caribbean country. Korea joined the global outpouring of support, both in financial and humanitarian terms. The devastating earthquake left at least one million Haitians homeless and 700,000 to 800,000 people living in makeshift camps. Korea has pledged over US$16 million worth of relief supplies so far from both the government and private sectors. This aid will be divided into short and long term assistance in order to help rebuild Haiti. When the earthquake first occurred, Korea pledged to offer relief goods worth $1 million as well as volunteer workers. Following this, the government then decided to send additional aid worth $10 million, reflecting Korea's determination to actively join international efforts.

It has been over a month now since the earthquake, with the death toll continuing to grow. According to Haiti Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, the combined death toll from the earthquake and the subsequent aftershocks has reached 212,000. Survivors, however, now have to face a harsh reality in which water, food and shelter are all scarce. Considering the fact that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemi-sphere, it is estimated that it will take decades and billions of dollars for the country to recover. Although donations are approaching nearly $1 billion, it is not nearly enough.

Korea plans to send 250 peacekeeping troops to Haiti in February, consisting mostly of military engineers, to assist in the reconstruction process. The troops will be stationed in Leogane, 40 km west of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, until the end of the year. The troops are to follow the regulations of the United Nations, since they will be dispatched as part of the United Nations-led peacekeeping mission. According to the Defense Ministry, an advance party of 30 members departed Korea on February 10 by a means of a civil aircraft. Leogane, where the forward group is scheduled to be stationed, was the second most devastated city and is considered a vulnerable point by the United Nations. In addition to the troop's departure, a 1,200-ton cargo ship loaded with equipment and supplies will also depart for Haiti from a port in Busan and is scheduled to arrive at Port-au-Prince on March 12. Following the advance party, the rest of the troops, including medical officers and engineers, are scheduled to depart at the end of February.

The National Assembly approved the deployment during a plenary session in which all 173 lawmakers voted in favor. Nine government officials formed a joint research and investigation team and conducted a survey of Haiti for seven days at the end of January prior to the deployment. The deployment will cost approximately 28.7 billion won, of which the Korean government will initially cover, with partial payment coming from the UN in the future.