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UN Urges Support For Storm-Beleaguered Haitians

UN Food Agency Issues Call For Urgent Support For Storm-Beleaguered Haitians

New York, Sep 27 2008 8:10PM

The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed to donor nations to supply the funds needed to feed Haitians and repair infrastructure in the Caribbean nation, which is trying to recover after being battered by a series of severe storms since mid-August.

“The misery index is rising daily and this will require a massive effort to help people stave off hunger and save lives,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, wrapping up a two-day visit to Haiti, the first by the head of a UN agency since the catastrophe struck.

Since 5 September, WFP has supplied food for nearly 300,000 people in dozens of shelters across the hard-hit city of Gonaïves, and is working in concert with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other humanitarian partners.

The agency urgently requires $54 million for food, logistics and emergency communications to help 800,000 people across the country. To date, the United States, Japan, the European Community, Switzerland and Canada have contributed over $10 million, allowing WFP to feed those in need until the end of next month.

“Despite this show of generosity from many nations, we need more help so we can continue with the emergency operation and our other programmes here that will contribute to the longer-term solution President [Rene] Préval and the people of Haiti so desperately need,” Ms. Sheeran said.

Nearly one month has passed since the storms thrashed Haiti, destroying roads and 3,000 homes in Gonaïves, and 50,000 people are still taking refuge in shelters. Some 3 million cubic metres of mud still need to be removed from the city.

WFP is feeding workers helping to clear mud from 50 schools, mostly in Gonaïves, so they can re-open their doors on 1 November.

The agency has also established a food distribution system across that city, focusing on women to ensure that children are receiving the necessary nutrition. There is concern over the spread of skin diseases, respiratory infections, dysentery, hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid and malaria.

In addition, the rains destroyed large areas of crops, further exacerbating the problems Haiti is facing. “We are determined to help the Haitian people out of this emergency and work toward longer-term sustainable solutions as we do,” Ms. Sheeran said.

She was scheduled to meet today with Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis and other Government officials in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as international donors, partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN representatives, to discuss the best way forward.

ENDS

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