The World Council of Churches has applauded the decision of G7 nations to cancel Haiti’s debts and urged others to follow suit.

The council’s general secretary, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has called upon the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions to follow the example of the G7 nations - which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. He added that the international financial community should also ensure financial support being offered to Haiti in the wake of the 12th January earthquake, is “grant-based and not debt-creating”.

An estimated 200,000 people died after the earthquake struck the capital, Port-au-Prince, and a further 250,000 people were injured. It’s estimated that around 1.5 million people have been left homeless.

Rev Dr Fykse has written to the finance ministers of the G7 nations, thanking them for their actions following their decision to “write-off” debts last weekend, saying that he hoped their move would "encourage other countries and multilateral institutions to commit to the unconditional cancellation of Haiti's debts".

He has also expressed concern that the IMF has not as yet shown “clear willingness” to cancel Haiti’s debt.

The G7 made the decision following two days of talks in northern Canada. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown reportedly said: "It must be right that a nation buried in rubble must not also be buried in debt.”

Meanwhile, in the UK, Christian Aid last week handed a 15,000 signature petition to the Treasury, urging the Chancellor Alistair Darling to help in having all of Haiti’s remaining $US890 million of international debt cancelled and asking that all emergency and development funds are given to aid the impoverished nation as gifts and not loans.

The petition was delivered to Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Of the $US890 still owed, about 41 per cent is owed to the InterAmerican Development Bank and 27 per cent to the World Bank.

In Australia, groups are also calling on Haiti’s international debt to be cancelled. Oxfam Australia’s Policy Director James Ensor has said that recovery efforts risk being undermined by Haiti’s debt burden and the pre-existing food crisis which, even prior to the earthquake, saw Haiti dependent on imports for 40 per cent of its food.