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French foreign minister tours Haiti city ravaged by Matthew

Associated Press logo Associated Press 19/12/2016

JEREMIE, Haiti — France's foreign minister on Sunday visited a Haitian city ravaged by Hurricane Matthew over two months ago and said the Caribbean country will be a top priority for French development aid.

The French Embassy in Port-au-Prince said the purpose of Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's visit to Jeremie on Sunday was to express France's solidarity with its former colony as affected areas struggle to recover from Matthew's destructive Oct. 4 passage.

He did not announce any new grants or aid packages. But at a news conference in the capital, Ayrault said French government decided in recent days to put Haiti at the top of a global priority list for development aid.

Ayrault had a working meeting with Haiti's caretaker president and other members of the interim government.

The United Nations says there has been $130 million of humanitarian funding for Haiti following Matthew, with $81 million contributed by the United States. France has donated $1.1 million.

The Category 4 storm's center tore through the impoverished country's southwestern peninsula, killing killed at least 546 people and destroying crops and livestock that families depend on for survival. There is growing concern about food insecurity into 2017.

Ayrault toured Jeremie's storm-damaged public hospital, which French aid workers helped fix. With photographers in tow, he also met with humanitarian workers and visiting officials from French Caribbean dependencies.

A successful slave revolt against French colonizers made Haiti the world's first black republic in 1804.

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