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UN Steps Up Relief Efforts In Storm-Stricken Haiti

UN Agencies Expand Emergency Operations In Storm-Stricken Caribbean

New York, Sep 17 2008 5:10PM

United Nations agencies are ramping up their relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Haiti, where some 160,000 people are still living out in the open exposed to disease and malnutrition, the humanitarian wing of the UN reported today.

In the last week the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has tripled the quantity of food it has distributed, feeding some 217,000 people in the impoverished Caribbean State.

Since 14 September WFP has delivered 1,000 tons of rice, beans, cooking oil, fresh water and other supplies with the help of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the peacekeeping mission to Haiti, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH.

“Despite challenging conditions that mean we can only transport by air or sea, we have increased the amount of food we are getting to people who are in desperate need,” said WFP Country Director Myrta Kaulard.

She added that logistical support from the United States, Canada and Spain, as well as a $1 million donation from the European Commission, had helped kick-start the emergency aid operation.

A $108 million appeal launched last week by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has only received 2 per cent of the funding required for relief and recovery assistance over the next six months.

“Although the waters have resided and the situation in Gonaïves [the city hardest hit by the recent storms] is returning more and more to normal, some 158,600 are still without permanent shelter,” said OCHA spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs.

“The Haitians are facing higher food prices and an increase in cases of malaria. One of the main challenges is to clean the cities that are filled with mud and garbage and there is still no electricity in Gonaïves,” added Ms. Byrs at a press briefing in Geneva.

WFP reported that the four tropical storms – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike – that hit Haiti one after the other over the past month have destroyed homes, livelihoods, crops and the entire road system.

Storm damage has left seven of the mountainous country’s key bridges impassable and Gonaïves completely cut off from the rest of Haiti, with 40 per cent of the city still underwater.

WFP staff in Gonaïves are working alongside the MINUSTAH blue helmets in thigh-high mud and water, often distributing food after nightfall to avoid violence breaking out as crowds rush to distribution points, according to the agency’s press release.

WFP is also urgently appealing for $54 million to provide food and assistance as well as logistical support for the relief and recovery operation over the next six months.

Meanwhile in Cuba, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has secured $524,000 to re-equip health facilities and provide maternal and child health care on the southern coast of the island after Gustav and Hanna caused widespread damage to medical facilities.

WHO has developed a $1.2 million project, almost half of which has been funded by the UN, to buy medical supplies, including beds, as well as sterilizing and operating equipment.

The priority for WHO is to ensure that health-care needs are met, particularly those of vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, the disabled and injured, according to its press release.

The project aims to ensure access to health services for nearly 200,000 people now living in shelters and another 2 million affected by the storms in Cuba’s eastern and western provinces.


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