Haitian President-Elect: 'Huge Challenges' Ahead

Haiti's President-elect Michel Martelly speaks at the State Department in Washington, April 20, 2011

Haiti's President-elect Michel Martelly says he has "huge challenges" ahead of him, as the country recovers from last year's devastating earthquake, and faces the threat of more natural disasters in the months to come.

Martelly spoke alongside U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington Wednesday, less than a month before he is set to take office.

He said reconstruction is "despairingly slow" 15 months after the earthquake left much of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruins and killed more than 200,000 people.

Clinton said that although 20 percent of the rubble has been cleared, there is still a lot more to remove and hundreds of thousands of people are still living in camps.

Martelly also warned that a cholera epidemic that has already killed thousands could spread to the entire country during the upcoming rainy and hurricane season if it is not contained. He said the country is expected to face up to 16 hurricanes when the season starts June 1.

He pledged to work relentlessly to reconstruct the country, including restructuring foreign aid, giving new life to the business sector and developing the capability of government institutions and civil society.

Clinton said the U.S. wants to do everything it can to be a good partner for Haiti as it takes the steps it must take.

Martelly's three-day U.S. visit is aimed at promoting his agenda of job creation, education, security, reconstruction and health.

The popular singer-turned-politician met Tuesday with the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He meets at the Embassy of Haiti Wednesday with members of the Haitian community and holds a press conference on Thursday.

Haiti's electoral council has declared Martelly the winner of the country's March 20 presidential runoff, but there have been repeated delays in announcing the official results, which are now expected on Wednesday.

Martelly is to take over from President Rene Preval on May 14.

The president-elect says his goals for Haiti include free tuition for all children nationwide, housing for earthquake victims living in tent camps, and strengthening agriculture so Haiti can become more self-sufficient.


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