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Christian Aid launches petition: Drop Haiti's $890 million debt now

Christian Aid today launches 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.

The charity 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,’ says 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 has already cancelled its bilateral loans to Haiti – it did so in summer 2009 – but 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.

Notes to editors:

For more information and interviews, contact Rachel Baird on 0207 523 2446 or rbaird@christian-aid.org

Christian Aid is advertising the petition online today (Wednesday 20th January) and in national newspapers over the next few days.

The wording of the petition is:

Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer,

Last year you cancelled Haiti’s debt to the UK.

Following the horrific earthquake in Haiti please lead the world in making sure that:

all of Haiti’s remaining $890 million international debt is cancelled immediately.
all emergency and development funds for the people of Haiti are given not loaned.

This will save lives and give the people of Haiti a fighting chance.

Please support the Disasters Appeal by calling 0370 60 60 900 or going to www.dec.org.uk

For more information about Haiti’s debts, see the Jubilee Debt Campaign website: http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.