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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
Haiti Earthquake: Aid arrives progressively / Secretary-General to visit
15 January 2010 / 11:32

[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]

Many staff report feeling helpless as they wish they could be in Haiti to help out. Rest assured that UN System Staff are well placed to help out.

The following is a round-up of the activities being taken, as the Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon announced during a press encounter  he would soon visit the country.

"I myself will go to Haiti very soon, both to show solidarity with the people of Haiti and our UN staff and to assess the situation for myself," explained the SG.

The United Nations has started its delivery of supplies to survivors of the earthquake, announced the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs   (OCHA) today.

“Past disaster response experience has shown that effective coordination is vital if the right help is to reach the most vulnerable in time,” said the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes today. The Coordinator and USG for Humanitarian Affairs who is expected to launch a Humanitarian Appeal of $560 million this afternoon in  New York .

“Distributions of food and medical assistance have begun in Port-au-Prince , but the scale is inevitably limited so far, as aid begins to arrive. Specialist search-and-rescue teams are increasingly on the spot and have managed to locate and free some survivors. Initial assessments indicate serious damage across Port-au-Prince , with some areas suffering up to 50 percent destruction or serious damage. No figures for the dead or injured are available but they are likely to be very high,” he said in a press release. John Holmes added that the rumours of looting of World Food Programme’s stocks were untrue.

OCHA is now coordinating more than 25 search-and-rescue teams that are now working on hospitals, schools, hotels and larger buildings. A further 13 teams are mobilizing and will receive support from the UN’s Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team at the airport.

Immediate needs identified include medical support, food, water, and emergency shelter.

Many survivors have serious injuries, including traumatic wounds, compound fractures and crushed limbs. The World Health Organization is coordinating medical assistance and sending a 12-member team specializing in victim care, while NGOs such as Medecins sans Frontiers are scaling up their efforts on the ground as quickly as possible.

OCHA is also working with the Haitian authorities on the possibility of the national soccer stadium being used as a field hospital location by international teams. The World Food Programme has begun distributions of emergency food rations that were already in country, and is moving another 86 metric tons of high-energy biscuits from El Salvador .

UNICEF has flown in water purification supplies and shelter materials.  UN teams are also working to overcome serious challenges to providing assistance, including lack of infrastructure and difficult logistics. Additional UN air assets are being mobilized to move aid as fast as possible through hubs now established in  Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Casualties

The SG's Spokesperson Martin Nesirky confirmed today the death of 37 UN personnel, including 36 from MINUSTAH and 1 from WFP. 330 persons are still unaccounted for, out of a total of 12,000 UN staff. He added at his noon briefing that he didn’t have any information yet regarding names.  As soon as iSeek has names, they will be posted. 

The UNESCO office in  Haiti informed that all members of its office in Port-au-Prince were safe and accounted for.

Out of respect for the victims of the tragedy in Haiti , the Secretary-General has requested that all duty stations continue to lower the UN flag to half-staff for one additional day.

Background on the earthquake

Haiti , by far the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has been beset by natural disasters for most of its recent history. The earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, struck at approximately 4.53 p.m. local time on 12 January, and was less than 10km deep. It was recorded off the coast of Haiti and only 17km from the capital, Port-au-Prince . Strong aftershocks have been felt, measuring 5.9 and 5.5 respectively.