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UN to help US recover from Hurricane Katrina

UN mobilizes inter-agency teams to help US recover from Hurricane Katrina

The United Nations has mobilized three inter-agency teams to aid the United State's recovery from Hurricane Katrina and further deployments may occur within the next few days, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

The teams span the whole gamut of UN humanitarian activities, from food and health to refugees and children, and have been assembled following the US acceptance of help from the world body in the face of the enormous devastation caused by the hurricane.

“The United States itself has been very generous in other people's crises,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC in an interview last night. “And this is why I think it's important that we, the United Nations, and other countries return the favour, now that they are in need.”

At present, one UN inter-agency liaison team is based at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Hurricane Katrina Operations Centre in Arlington, Virginia. The other teams will be deployed in support of USAID/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) at the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Regional Coordination Centres in Texas and Georgia.

These two teams fielded are comprised of representatives from the World Food Programme (WFP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as support teams from the OCHA/UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) network.

In order to coordinate its response, the UN assembled an inter-agency task force on 2 September, chaired by the OCHA, and composed of the UNICEF, WHO, WFP, UNHCR, UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

UNICEF spokesman Damien Personnaz told reporters at a news briefing in Geneva his agency would specifically look at trauma effects on children as well as the situation of schools.

WFP spokesman Simon Pluess told reporters his agency would provide logistical help, while UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said his organization obviously had experience in working with mass displacement on an emergency basis.

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