Haitian leader urges unity to help rebuild nation

Haitian President Michel Martelly made a New Year plea for unity, urging his countrymen to rebuild together their shattered country almost three years after a devastating earthquake.

Declaring 2013 the "year of the environment," Martelly warned on national television Tuesday that environmental degradation was a serious challenge in a nation with less than two percent forest cover.

"I call on every single Haitian to plant a tree for the next 25 years in order to confront natural disasters," the president said.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has suffered a series of natural disasters throughout its history, with cyclones, hurricanes, torrential rains, floods and earthquakes battering the country.

"The day has come to join forces to rebuild our country," Martelly said.

"We must multiply our forces many times over to change our population's living conditions. We must make sacrifices to pull people out of joblessness, vanquish exclusion and eradicate illiteracy."

Speaking in the northern city of Gonaives, the president was marking the 209th anniversary of Haiti's independence from France in 1804.

He vowed to right the many injustices plaguing his country, where nearly 80 percent of the population is out of work and surviving on just $1 a day.

And referring to the bitter political climate, he called for cooler heads to prevail in order to foster order and security across the nation.

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