Shelter critical need for post-quake Haiti

Returning from seeing first-hand the destruction wrought by the earthquake that struck Chile last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the urgent need for shelter, which is also a priority for millions of quake survivors in Haiti.

“Shelter is very important and an urgent one for both Haiti and Chile,” Mr. Ban said at UN Headquarters, following his visit to Chile over the weekend to get a fuller picture of the extent of the damage from the 27 February quake and to better assess how the UN can best help.

He noted that the Chilean Government, which is spearheading the response to the disaster, has appealed for the urgent provision of shelter, in addition to mobile hospitals, generators and communications equipment.

While in the capital, Santiago, Mr. Ban participated with President-elect Sebastián Piñera in an event with hundreds of young volunteers working with “A Roof for Chile” Foundation. The Catholic Church-based organization builds temporary housing for slum dwellers and seeks to provide them with education, social services and micro-credit, as well as guide them in acquiring permanent housing.

“I was very moved by such volunteer work,” said the Secretary-General, who said he will continue to work hard to ensure that the country receives the assistance that it needs.

Mr. Ban, who also visited Haiti in the wake of that country’s 12 January quake, highlighted the ongoing need for shelter there, especially ahead of the upcoming rainy season. “We need at least one million tents, because two million people have been displaced,” he noted.

Briefing the Security Council two weeks ago, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said much more would have to be done, especially in terms of emergency shelter, other non-food items and sanitation, to assist affected Haitians.

With an estimated 1.2 million Haitians needing emergency shelter materials and waterproof tarpaulins to cover their heads, there was a desperate need not only for plastic sheeting, but also for tents before the rains began in earnest, Mr. Holmes said, calling for a “shelter and sanitation surge” to match the immediate post-earthquake effort to get food aid into the country.

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