Obama names Shah US' relief coordinator to Haiti

Last Updated : 14 January 2010, 05:30 IST
Last Updated : 14 January 2010, 05:30 IST

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Shah was last week sworn in as head of the US Agency for International Development that oversees a whopping USD 40 billion foreign assistance programme, becoming the highest ranking Indian American in any presidential administration.

Over 100,000 people are feared dead in a calamitous earthquake that rocked Haiti on Tuesday, and thousands of people are buried under the rubble of the collapsed buildings.
"To ensure that we coordinate our effort, going forward, I have designated the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah, to be our government's unified disaster coordinator," Obama said at the White House.

Obama ordered an aggressive and coordinated strategy to address the difficulties in providing assistance to the Haitian people and then following through in the weeks and months ahead to help with their reconstruction.

"I have directed my administration to respond with swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was rushing to Washington immediately from Hawaii after cancelling her visit to three nations, said she was returning to give full support to Shah.

Shah said the US is working aggressively and in a highly coordinated way across the government to coordinate all assets and capacities to quickly and effectively provide as much assistance as possible.

He said the immediate goal of the relief effort will be to save as many lives as possible.
"The goal of the relief effort in the first 72 hours will be very focused on saving lives... We will do that by first putting in place significant Disaster Assistance Relief Teams," Shah told reporters at a press conference.

He said by the end of the day a 15-member US team will be on surveillance in Haiti, collecting data, identifying priority sites and guiding efforts of the larger search and response units that will follow into the country.

"We will be pushing forward with an aggressive and coordinated effort focused very much on saving lives through aggressive search and rescue in the urban environment for the next 72 hours. And that will be the primary focus of our engagement," he said.

Before her return to Washington, Clinton told reporters at Honolulu in Hawaii that the administration will bring in additional resources to support Shah's relief efforts.
"I have every confidence that Raj will continue in that role with same caring and competence that he has always shown.

"He just took the job, was sworn into the job a couple of days ago and had not had a chance to really staff up USAID, which many of you know has been depleted over the last years. So we are working to augment what Raj has on hand," she said.

Published 14 January 2010, 05:30 IST

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