NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–5 March 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet today with Chilean President Michele Bachelet and President-elect Sebastián Piñera, who takes office on 11 March, as part of a two-day visit to see the earthquake damage and assess how the United Nations can help.
Mr. Ban will express his solidarity with the country’s Government and people nearly a week since the 8.8-magnitude quake struck the coast of the South American nation, killing an estimated 800 people and affecting some 2 million others.
Meanwhile, Chilean officials have assured the public that drugs and medicines will be available free of charge. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Government has said there is no evidence of outbreaks of communicable diseases, although disease surveillance has been stepped up given unsanitary conditions in some areas which remain without safe drinking water and where garbage is accumulating.
WHO is working with the Government to coordinate international health aid arriving from other countries, as well as to coordinate technical aspects related to mobile field hospitals and to support communication needs.
The Secretary-General had offered immediate support and aid to Chile through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the wake of the disaster. At that time, the Government asked the UN for help setting up field hospitals, as well as for equipment such as generators and satellite phones.
In the capital, Santiago, the UN inter-agency disaster technical team is scheduled to meet for the first time today at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
ECLAC’s headquarters were reportedly not seriously damaged in the quake, but parts of the building continue to be shut down. Some staff returned to work yesterday, with the remaining expected to resume work once their offices are deemed safe.