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Obstacle to Emergency Aid Efforts in Haiti

Estruction a Serious Obstacle to Emergency Aid Efforts in Haiti – UN Agencies

The damage to infrastructure and extensive flooding across hurricane-battered Haiti is so severe that relief and recovery efforts are being handicapped, a top United Nations official to the country said today.

As the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF prepared to airlift 11.5 tons of relief supplies to victims made homeless and displaced, local Government figures say that damage from the four back-to-back hurricanes since mid-August has affected over 300,000 children.

Some 80 per cent of Gonaïves remains inundated and an estimated 70,000 people from the northern port city have been forced into temporary shelters, waiting for murky flood water to subside and discover what is left of their homes.

“Many roads and bridges were damaged or destroyed,” Joël Boutroue, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, told UN Radio in an interview.

“This reduces our freedom of movement and forces us to rely on air and maritime transport,” he added. “For now we plan to assist some 800,000 people. Not only in terms of humanitarian help but also in reviving agricultural activities, especially [those that are highly] labour intensive.”

Much of Haiti’s farmland also remains under water, according to the UN Food and FAO Agriculture Organization, which appealed for $10.5 million to help rebuild farmers’ livelihoods, restart food production and fight the spread of animal diseases.

More than 2,000 livestock have drowned and kilometres of irrigation and drainage systems, as well as much of the State’s power lines and roads have been destroyed further complicating the relief and recover efforts, the agency reports.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern about the impact of the storms, telling journalists at a press conference today that the Caribbean has been devastated by the successive hurricanes and that Haiti has been hit especially hard.

Even before the recent series of storms, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, was experiencing chronic food insecurity as a result of the underlying poverty and compounded by the global rise in food prices, say FAO.

FAO reported that tropical storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike struck during the peak time for crop growth and almost entirely wiped out the harvest for the current season.

The agency said that more than 50,000 families lost access to their normal food supplies in the nation and their means to subsistence while predicting that hunger and malnourishment will be worse in the months ahead if displaced rural households do not have the means to return to their agricultural lands.

The funds raised will be used to distribute planting material, farming tools and small land animals, as well as rebuild the country’s irrigation network to ensure production can recover in time for the next cropping season.

The assistance will provide employment and an immediate source of income to Haitians affected by the disaster.

For its part, UNICEF assisted more than 35,000 storm victims with emergency relief stocks that were in place before the hurricanes struck, but the agency reports the reserve is running empty given the magnitude of the crisis.

The agency said that the airlifted cargo will allow it to replenish the stockpile and steady itself for the rest of the hurricane season.

“UNICEF’s first line of action is to give potable water and improve sanitation to reduce the risk of diarrhoea epidemics,” said Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.

Women and children are the most vulnerable to diseases when sanitary conditions deteriorate and to violence and looting during aid distributions, according to the agency.

“We will also launch a public outreach campaign to call on the population and the authorities to respect children’s rights during the crisis,” Ms. Laurini said.

ENDS

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