By Pascal Fletcher
MIAMI (Reuters) - Rebuilding earthquake-ravagedHaiti is a task similar to rebuilding Europe after World WarTwo and involves complex decisions on how to house or resettlemore than a million people left homeless by one of the world'sworst disasters, a senior World Bank official said.
Eight months after the magnitude 7 quake on Jan. 12 thatshattered large parts of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince,killing up to 300,000 people, the international aid communityhas faced criticism that efforts to clear rubble and relocatesurvivors from makeshift camps have been slow to materialize.
Pamela Cox, the World Bank's vice president for LatinAmerica and the Caribbean who has been focusing on Haiti'sreconstruction, says the world needs to be aware of the scaleand complexity of the goal to "build back better" in Haiti.
"It is, I think, one of the worst situations that the worldhas faced," she said in an interview on Tuesday afternoon onthe sidelines of a conference on the Americas in Miami.
She compared rebuilding Haiti's teeming capital andreviving the crippled economy to reconstructing an areadevastated by war, like Europe after World War Two, with "thecomplicating factor in Haiti (that) it is one of the poorestcountries in the world and this was their economic center."
Cox recalled that it took years for many residents of NewOrleans to be able to return to their homes after the death anddestruction inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Londonstill showed the scars of the German bombing blitz during WorldWar Two well into the 195Os.
"So while everyone wants a magic wand to be waved (inHaiti) and everything fixed by January, the first anniversary... that ain't going to happen, it's impossible," Cox said.
She said that while Haiti's government and relief partnerswere making debris removal and housing their key priorities, itwas likely many of the estimated 1.5 million quake homelesswould still be living in camps into next year.
"We need to watch out for the people in the camps, makesure that they get the services, the security, the food andeverything else," Cox said.
In March, foreign governments, multilateral bodies andnon-governmental groups from around the world pledged $9.9billion for Haiti's post-quake reconstruction, $5.3 billion forthe next two years alone. Cox said coordinating the efforts ofso many disparate aid bodies was in itself challenging.
"It's like herding cats sometimes, working with all theactors," she said.
LAND OWNERSHIP AND JOBS
Moving people out of the camps into more secure shelter orpermanent housing posed multiple challenges -- design,logistical, social and economic. Questions of ownership andland tenure added layers of legal complications.
"This isn't like a developer coming into southern Floridaand seeing a parcel of land, you know, building condos orwhatever," said Cox. She said most of those made homeless didnot own the houses they were in but were paying rent.
Homes piled higgledy-piggledy on Port-au-Prince's hillsideshad collapsed like cards in the quake, witnesses said, addingto the confusion of sorting out tenure and ownership.
"It's very hard to get people to go back to their housesafter they've been in a camp ... they don't have to pay rent ina camp. The camps have services, entertainment, fooddistribution," Cox said. She added that at the same time no onewanted the sprawling survivors' camps to become permanent.
Cox said it was a "sad" comment on Haiti's poverty thatsome occupants of the internationally supported camps might nowbe living in better conditions than they had been previously.
Drawing up an accurate land cadaster, or record of landownership, was also an essential tool to be able to carry outany resettlement, and this could take several years.
Cox said Haiti's reconstruction also urgently neededprivate investment to create much-needed jobs.
"Everybody's focusing on the humanitarian, we also have tofocus on the job creation part ... When people ask what theycan do for Haiti, it might be better that you set up a garmentplant and put people to work," she said.
Few major new private investment projects have beenannounced since the quake. An Argentine energy entrepreneurthis week announced a plan with a Haiti-based group to build a$33 million, 240-room airport hotel in Port-au-Prince -- aimedat accommodating business executives and aid officials.
The United Nations has stressed the importance of Haitiholding credible elections in November to choose a successor toPresident Rene Preval, who cannot stand again after two terms.But there are fears election politics could distract from, andeven undermine, the reconstruction process.
Cox said reports suggested most Haitians wanted suchelections and this would be positive. "You have to have agovernment in this process that has legitimacy," she said. (Editing by Eric Beech)