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Chilean leader travels to Haiti to spotlight women's post-quake needs – UN

By UN

20 February - Following the recent announcement that the outgoing Chilean President will join forces with the UN Women's Fund (UNIFEM) to advocate for the women of Haiti after the devastating earthquake, Michelle Bachelet today traveled to the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The magnitude-7.0 quake, which struck Haiti on 12 January, has claimed over 200,000 lives and left some one million homeless.

During her visit to show her solidarity with the country, Ms. Bachelet plans to meet with Haitian authorities, including Minister of Women's Affairs Marjorie Michel and women's organizations.

The Chilean leader will also call for the equal participation of women in discussion on Haiti's future during these talks, which will also focus on immediate needs, including preventing gender-based violence and the urgent humanitarian and early recovery effort.

In its work on the ground, UNIFEM has found that all too often, natural disasters result in increased instability in households and institutions as well as swelling women's vulnerability to violence, abuse and sexual exploitation.

During her planned UNIFEM-backed meeting with women's groups today, Ms. Bachelet will be presented with strong recommendations on the central role of women in post-disaster reconstruction and relief work.

“As women are key to overcoming this disaster, their voices must be heard. President Bachelet is committed to being instrumental in supporting them,” said Laura Albornoz, her special advisor.

Yesterday, the top UN humanitarian official told the Security Council that while more and more survivors of the quake are receiving vital assistance, it is clear that not everyone in need has yet been reached and much more remains to be done, particularly in terms of emergency shelter and sanitation.

“The humanitarian situation in Haiti is undoubtedly improving day by day. But we are under no illusion about the scale of the challenges still ahead for the next weeks and months,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said.

He reported that the worst of the medical emergency has passed. Around 3 million people have received food rations, clean water is available for the vast majority of those in need, and every day more and more relief supplies are reaching the country and being distributed.

The provision of shelter and sanitation is the top priority, Mr. Holmes pointed out, with an estimated 1.2 million Haitians in need of emergency shelter support.

“There are no instant solutions. It will take time to cover all these needs, and care to maintain help to the most vulnerable without creating dangerous aid dependency,” he emphasized.

“But we must not waver in helping several million people not only survive this catastrophe, but also rebuild their livelihoods and lives in a new and better way.”

On Thursday, the UN and its aid partners announced they are seeking over $1.4 billion to assist Haiti, in the largest-ever humanitarian appeal launched in the wake of a natural disaster.

The revised appeal folds in the $577 million flash appeal issued just days after the earthquake, which was originally intended to cover a six-month period. It is being expanded to meet needs for one year as the hurricane and rainy seasons approach, and its size reflects the scale of the catastrophe and takes into consideration the need for stepped-up early recovery efforts.