Hurricane season approaching, Haitians need shelter

Shelter remains the biggest and most urgent priority in Haiti, two months after it was struck by a catastrophic earthquake, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday as he visited the country for the second time since the disaster and stressed that the world has not forgotten its people’s plight.

Mr. Ban met with President René Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and toured a camp that is home to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) on a one-day visit to the Caribbean country ahead of the international donors’ conference for Haiti that will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 31 March.

The Secretary-General told journalists in Port-au-Prince, the capital, that the situation in Haiti, where the transition from emergency relief to early recovery and reconstruction has begun, remains extremely difficult.

Estimates vary but as many as 230,000 Haitians may have been killed in the quake that struck on 12 January and much of Port-au-Prince and nearby towns was levelled. Around 1.3 million people remain homeless.

“We have made great progress” in providing emergency supplies of food and water, Mr. Ban said, while the UN cash-for-work scheme has employed 85,000 people so far to clear debrief and distribute aid and both the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) and the Haitian National Police (HNP) have managed to maintain security.

But he warned that the upcoming rainy season, following by the scheduled start of hurricane season in June, means humanitarian workers face a race to house the large numbers of homeless.

“The most urgent challenge right now is shelter, shelter, shelter – coupled with sanitation. At this moment we have supplied tents and tarpaulins to approximately 60 per cent of the 1.3 million people in need. We aim to reach everyone by the end of April.”

Mr. Ban said Haiti also faces urgent funds for schools, roads, port, power and other forms of infrastructure, and he hopes the international community will continue to respond generously when the donors’ conference is held in New York.

“For the foreseeable future, the government will need international assistance simply to cover its payroll – teachers, police, doctors and nurses, civil servants and basic services.”

The flash appeal from the UN and its aid partners, revised to $1.4 billion, is so far only 49 percent funded, Mr. Ban noted.

“I assured President Préval and his ministers that I will continue my best personal efforts to fulfil the remainder, particularly for such under-funded programmes as early recovery and agriculture?

“I know that the international community can, and will, provide the resources necessary for an effective effort, well-coordinated and properly supported, to help and the Haitians to rise and to construct a better future.”

During his visit today Mr. Ban stressed that his message to Haitians was one of hope and solidarity.

“Even if time passes, the world has not forgotten. The world is always at their side.”

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