Christian Aid has launched a petition to urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do all he can to get Haiti’s entire $890 million international debt burden cancelled immediately.
It follows a call by the Jubilee Debt Campaign (JDC) on Tuesday. The campaigners also criticised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for extending further loans to the Haitian government, saying that Haitians need grants instead.
JDC described the IMF’s decision as “completely inappropriate”, saying that the IMF and similar institutions “bore a good degree of responsibility for the poor state of Haiti’s economy today”.
Now Christian Aid is calling on Alistair Darling to use his influence with the International Monetary Fund and Haiti’s other creditors.
Advertisements on the internet and in national newspapers over the next few days will ask members of the public to show their concern for the plight of Haiti by signing the petition online, at www.christianaid.org.uk
"We are hoping for a huge response, which will symbolise the UK public’s overwhelming desire to see our government help Haiti at its time of crisis," said Paul Brannen, Head of Advocacy and Influence at Christian Aid.
"When 200,000 people are feared dead and countless more have had their bodies and their lives shattered by horrific destruction which will take years to repair, how can lenders still be demanding their money back?"
Mr Brannen adds: "We know that people in the UK care deeply about the horror and devastation which have engulfed Haiti, because they have given so generously to the DEC Appeal for the country.
"This petition is a further opportunity for the public to support the people of Haiti, by adding their voices to the call for the country’s massive debt to be cancelled now.
"The petition also calls on Mr Darling to ensure that all money given to Haiti in future, for emergency relief and development, is in the form of grants and not loans.
"Even before the country was devastated by last week’s earthquake, it was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere."
Christian Aid will present the Chancellor with the list of signatories before the end of this month.
Pressure is already mounting on some of Haiti’s creditors. The Paris Club – an informal group of mostly industrialised country creditors (including the UK) – called this week for Haiti’s bilateral debts, although not its debts to the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank, to be cancelled.
The UK cancelled its bilateral loans to Haiti in the summer of 2009, but campaigners say it now has the opportunity to help relieve the country of its remaining debt burden.
Around half of Haiti’s debt is owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to the Inter-American Development Bank. Other remaining creditors include Taiwan and Venezuela.
Those wishing to donate on on-line should go to www.christianaid.org.uk/haiti-appeal