Mr De Gucht said tents are needed before the rainy season begins in May. "This is urgent, as people can live in the streets at the moment but it would be a real drama if they were in the same situation when the rainy season starts." He also said the reconstruction of the Haitian state is a priority as police stations, entire ministries and their staff have disappeared, "the government quarter being very much affected".
Given the precarious state of affairs in Haiti even before the quake there is a need "not to reconstruct Haiti but to construct Haiti," Spanish Socialist Enrique Guerrero Salom said.
Development Committee Chair Eva Joly said that with at least 75,000 dead, 250,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless the scale of help needed is "clearly huge."
Many MEPs called for a cancellation of the country’s debt and the creation of a standing Rapid Reaction force for rescue and emergency aid operations.
EU rapid reaction force?
The EU quickly agreed to provide aid but deployment was slow because of problems with logistics and coordination, Ms Joly said. "There are lessons to be drawn from the management of this crisis. It may give fresh impetus to initiatives for an EU rapid reaction force."
Ireland's Gay Mitchell of the EPP group called for a permanent EU force that would assist "under the European flag" the efforts of NGOs, as the US did with hospital ships. UK conservative Nirj Deva said many needs are similar in all major disasters and "we seem to be re-inventing the wheel each time".
"It is time to put in place a permanent humanitarian system...that can be mobilised at any moment," Luxembourg Liberal Charles Goerens said. "It should have a civilian character but that does not mean that it could not draw on military capacities and material." Parliament's draftswoman on humanitarian aid, Michèle Striffler (EPP), said a permanent structure for civil protection would render the EU "more effective and visible".
46 countries helping
Greet Schaumans, on behalf of 60 NGOs working in Haiti, said "more than 46 countries have contributed to search and rescue, the provision of food and non-food items, water, shelter while others have provided immediate medical attention to the most needy." Haiti must be able to determine its own future, she said. Government structures and civil society groups need to be supported, the country’s debt cancelled and its agriculture supported to provide food and income for Haitians.