Top UN humanitarian official to visit hurricane-battered Haiti

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

21 October 2008 – United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes will visit Haiti later this week to assess the response to a series of storms which ravaged the impoverished Caribbean nation recently, it was announced today.

Four tropical storms – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike – battered Haiti between mid-August and mid-September, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake.

During his two-day trip starting on Thursday, Mr. Holmes, who also serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will hold talks with Haitian leaders and representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The UN launched an appeal in September for nearly $108 million to provide humanitarian and early recovery help for the next six months to survivors of the storms.

On his visit, Mr. Holmes will also stop at Gonaïves, the town hardest-hit by the recent storms.

In a related development, all 140 members of an Indian Formed Police Unit (FPU) – comprising police officers who have received specialized training in high-risk operations and managing crowds – have all arrived to serve with the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH.

The latest addition brings the total of UN Police (UNPOL) serving with the mission to over 1,100.

FPUs can be deployed to respond to riots, carry out patrols and take part in anti-kidnapping operations. They can also provide much-needed humanitarian assistance, as was the case early last month in Haiti.

In Gonaïves, a Pakistani FPU – working 36 straight hours instead of their usual 8-hour shift – saved the lives of hundreds of prisoners whose cells were in danger of being inundated by floodwater.

With many relief organizations unable to reach the town in Haiti’s north, the officers shared their own food and supplies with those in need. They also waded through waist-deep water to evacuate senior citizens and children, carrying them on their shoulders. Once the waters had receded, the Pakistani FPU transported some 4,000 people to safety in a span of three days.


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