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Donors pledge $324m in Haiti aid

The pledge comes after a meeting of more than 20 countries and financial institutions in Washington.

The Caribbean island is the poorest country in the Americas, with more than 70% unemployment.

Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis had warned that a failure to take action would be "catastrophic".

Haiti was hit by a series of hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008 that left some 800 people dead and caused nearly $1bn of damage.

Ms Pierre-Louis told the conference that her country was "treading on very fragile ground" and urged them to back a development plan to create some 150,000 jobs and boost the economy.

She appealed for $900m over two years for education, health and other services in the country.

'On a brink'

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which organised the conference with the Haitian government, said $41m of the total pledged would go towards filling a $125m shortfall in Haiti's budget.

The World Bank agreed to provide $20m in aid, while the US said it would offer a further $57m.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Haiti's growth had been undermined by "the combined winds of hurricanes and the global economic recession" and was "in danger of stalling".

"This nation is on a brink of either moving forward with the help of the collective community or falling further back."

In addition to the aid pledged, Haiti is also expected to receive about $1bn in debt relief by mid-2009.

Ms Pierre-Louis said the money would help Haiti in its "quest for lasting development and democracy".

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