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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

15 January 2010

Opening remarks at press encounter on Haiti

Good morning.

I'd like to make three brief points.

First, the general picture. Reports on the extent of the devastation in Haiti are still coming in, each seemingly worse than the last.

Preliminary estimates from our UN emergency teams show widespread damage to infrastructure in Port au Prince and other affected areas, with as many as 50 percent of buildings in the worst-hit areas damaged or destroyed.

A high proportion of the 3 million people in the capital area are without access to food, water, shelter and electricity.

We are still in the search and rescue phase, and we are trying to save as many lives as possible.

A major humanitarian effort is now well underway. Although it is inevitably slower and more difficult than any of us would wish, we are mobilizing all resources as fast as we possibly can.

A UN operations center has been established at the Port au Prince airport, staffed by members of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team, and is now coordinating the search and rescue efforts of 27 teams that have arrived from countries around the world.

Aid flights arrived through the night and will continue through the day.

Search and rescue remains a monumental effort. Heavy lifting equipment is still urgently needed.

Distribution of food and medical supplies has begun in Port au Prince, supplemented increasingly by the aid beginning to arrive from the outside.

Logistics are extremely difficult. The airport is open, as you know, but capacity is limited. A lack of transport and fuel is also hampering efforts. Many roads remain blocked.

That said, the international community's response has been generous and robust, and we are gearing up rapidly and effectively despite the challenging circumstances.

This afternoon the UN will launch an emergency flash appeal for around $550 million. Most of this money will go to urgent needs: food and water are in critically short supply.

Given the number of people in the streets, without homes, we must provide shelter -- we need tents, and more tents.

We urgently need medical supplies and, even more, emergency medical personnel.

The World Food Program began operations yesterday and right now is feeding around 8,000 people several times a day. Obviously, that is only a drop in the bucket in the face of the massive need, but the agency will be scaling up to feed approximately 1 million people within 15 days and 2 million people within a month.

Right now, we are establishing 15 food distribution centers in Port au Prince. Provisions will be basic: high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals that require no preparation.

Second, casualty figures.

We cannot do more than guess at the total dead and injured. You have seen the various estimates. There is no point in my speculating further.

I expect a fuller report from the mission shortly, and we will update you at that time. My Spokesperson will get back to you later.

I will meet with our Haitian staff today and plan to meet all Headquarters staff very soon, next week.

Third, my Acting Special Representative, Edmond Mulet, met with President [René] Préval and the Prime Minister of Haiti upon his arrival yesterday and has assumed full control over the mission.

I am also dispatching Assistant Secretary General Tony Banbury, in our office of field operations, to Haiti to serve as Mr. Mulet's principal deputy SRSG.

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.

Lastly, let me say once again to the people of Haiti: [in French and English] We are with you. I ask your patience and salute your fortitude and courage in these terrible circumstances. Thank you very much.