Head of UN mission in Haiti says humanitarian aid will be needed until 2011
9 March - Nearly two months after Haiti was struck by a catastrophic earthquake, the top United Nations official there says the country is moving towards recovery and reconstruction but will need continued urgent humanitarian relief for at least the next 12 months.
“That first phase of humanitarian aid and assistance will have to be there in a parallel track with the other two – recovery and reconstruction – because the rainy season is already arriving and we will have the hurricane season in June,” Edmond Mulet, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told journalists today in New York.
Emergency shelter, site management, sanitation and food continue to the main priorities in Haiti, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
To date, emergency shelter material has reached nearly 525,000 people, or 41 percent of those in need.
Haitian officials and aid workers have also been finalizing plans for five transitional settlements on plots of land chosen by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. The idea is to move some of the 1.3 million homeless people out of the congested capital of Port-au-Prince.
Officials are also concerned about a lack of funding for agriculture, which usually supplied 60 per cent of national food production needs, before the main planting season begins later this month.
The Haitian Government, which was already in a weak situation before the quake, is actively participating in the recovery effort, Mr. Mulet stressed.
Aid officials and the Haitian Government are in the process of creating the Post Disaster Needs Assessment and Recovery Framework (PDNA), which will be presented to donors at a meeting in New York on 31 March. The PDNA will include plans and programmes for the mid- and long-term development of Haiti.
A technical preparatory meeting ahead of the donor meeting will be held in the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo on 16 and 17 March.
Last month, OCHA issued a revised $1.44 billion appeal for Haiti, the largest ever natural disaster appeal.
Praising the humanitarian response, Mr. Mulet said it was “more coordinated” than in the early days, “although there is always room for improvement.”
He praised MINUSTAH staff who were “putting the mission back on its feet” despite “living, working and showering” at the logistics base. The mission lost 101 staff when the earthquake razed the Christopher Hotel, which housed its headquarters.
The two main pillars of MINUSTAH, the military and police components, were operational the day after the earthquake despite severe losses, Mr. Mulet noted.
He added that in addition to fulfilling the traditional mandate of providing safety, security and stability to Haiti, peacekeepers were tasked with new activities, including humanitarian assistance and support for recovery of economic activities.
UN blue helmets established “exemplary” relationship with troops not under the UN mandate – Canadian, Jamaican, French, Spanish and United States soldiers – in providing security to humanitarian convoys and other security efforts.
Mr. Mulet noted that MINUSTAH peacekeepers are increasingly providing these services themselves, having received some of the 3,500 additional troops and police authorized by the Security Council in January.