NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–15 January 2010 – The United Nations is appealing for $560 million to help victims of the catastrophic earthquake which struck Haiti earlier this week, as the world body scales up its assistance in the wake of the disaster.
The 7.0 magnitude tremors which struck Haiti – the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country – on Tuesday are estimated to have affected one third of the nation’s nine million people.
The earthquake has devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, leaving basic services on the brink of collapse. The UN estimates that 10 per cent of the buildings in the city have been destroyed, leaving 300,000 people homeless, and many are fleeing the destruction.
Half of the funds sought for the flash appeal launched today will be earmarked for emergency food aid, with the rest targeted at health, water, sanitation, nutrition, early recovery, emergency education and other key needs.
Because of the lack of detailed information from the ground, the appeal will be revised in the coming weeks, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in New York.
The UN is working to overcome serious obstacles to providing aid posed by lack of infrastructure and other issues, and Mr. Holmes underscored the need to recognize the reality that “inevitably and despite everyone’s enormous efforts,” it will take some time to scale up the pace of the operations.
With the top UN official in Haiti, Hédi Annabi, still unaccounted for, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dispatched Edmond Mulet, his former Special Representative to Haiti and current Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, to the country to assume full command of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and coordinate the relief effort.
The Office for the Coordination Affairs (OCHA) said that food and medical help have started to arrive in Port-au-Prince, but on a limited scale.
The Office is coordinating some 27 search-and-rescue teams – considered a top priority as many people remained trapped under rubble – while a further 10 teams are set to arrive shortly.
Dozens of nations have offered their assistance, and the UN is working to ensure that the aid reaches people as quickly as possible.
With many survivors having sustained serious injuries, including traumatic wounds and crushed limbs, medical support has been identified as an immediate need, along with food, water and shelter. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating medical assistance and sending a 12-member team specializing in victim care, while its partners are ramping up their efforts on the ground.
Yesterday, WHO said eight hospitals were damaged or destroyed in Haiti and two damaged in neighbouring Dominican Republic. “We fear that the impact of this earthquake will be particularly devastating to the already existing vulnerability of Haiti’s people, society and economy,” said WHO’s Paul Garwood.
OCHA said today that while the number of mobile hospitals set to arrive in the country is sufficient, there is still a great need for doctors, nurses and medicine. The Office also noted that it is conferring with Haitian authorities on the possibility of the national soccer stadium being used as a field hospital location.
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) is continuing with its food distributions, aiming to reach 2 million people affected by the quake.
The agency refuted media reports that its warehouses in Haiti had been looted and its food stocks stolen. It is also acquiring two helicopters that it will send to the country immediately, and moving nearly 90 metric tons of high-energy biscuits from El Salvador.
WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella told reporters in Geneva that the agency has received $20 million in donations so far, mostly from the United States.
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlighted as one of its key concerns identifying and reuniting children who have been separated from their parents in the disaster, as well as finding the extended families of orphaned children.
Nearly half of Haiti’s population is under the age of 18, making children very vulnerable, UNICEF stressed, adding that many children are on the streets of Port-au-Prince, hungry, thirsty and traumatized.
It is working around the clock to register children who are on their own, as well as to provide water purification tablets, latrines, shelter materials and hygiene kits.
Immediately after the disaster, Mr. Ban ordered $10 million to be released from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to kick-start humanitarian relief efforts.