In Haiti, Secretary-General vows support for quake victims

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) stands beside the remains of UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince , Haiti.

17 January 2010 – Touching down in the capital of Haiti, which was devastated by this week's catastrophic earthquake, today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged the United Nations' support for the victims of the disaster.

The UN “will continue to stand behind the Haitian people,” Mr. Ban said in Port-au-Prince, the city hardest hit by the 12 January tremors, which are believed to have impacted one third of Haiti's 9 million people. [Watch video]

Addressing reporters in the capital, the Secretary-General outlined three top priorities.

Firstly, he underscored the continued need for the search-and-rescue effort. Dozens of teams – comprising over 1,000 people – are on the ground trying to save survivors trapped under rubble.

A staff member, Jens Kristensen of Denmark, was pulled alive from the rubble of the Christopher Hotel today. [Watch video]

Also essential, Mr. Ban stressed, is emergency relief, including food, water and tents, and these supplies are being distributed to those in need by the UN and its partner agencies.

“Third, and most important, coordination” of the emergency operation is vital, he noted.

'The situation is overwhelming,” he said. “And the offer of assistance is also very moving and overwhelming.”

The airport still not operating at full capacity, but “we need to make sure our help is getting to people who need it, as fast as possible,” the Secretary-General, who plans to brief the Security Council tomorrow on his visit, said. “We cannot waste one minute, one dollar or one person.”

While visiting the destroyed Christopher Hotel, which housed the world body's headquarters in Haiti, he received a UN flag.

“I will carry this in memory of our colleagues who have given their lives for the cause of peace,” Mr. Ban said.

“I am very saddened to see what all this destruction that has cost the United Nations and our dear colleagues. But I believe that their dearest wish would be that we carry forward.”

Among those who died at the hotel are his Special Representative to Haiti, Hédi Annabi, as well as his Deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“You have suffered yourselves in this gravest single tragedy in UN history,” Mr. Ban said to UN staff members in Port-au-Prince. “Yet you carry on…

“We do not have to create UN heroes. We have only to look around. There are many heroes. I am proud to serve with you.”

Upon arriving in Haiti this afternoon, Mr. Ban met with President René Préval. He also had an emotional reunion with Michele Montas, his former spokersperson who is Haitian. [Watch video]

He was accompanied on his visit by Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP; Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping; John Holmes, UN Relief Coordinator; and Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.

In a meeting with Haitian UN staff members on Friday, he underscored that “all of us, all colleagues and the whole world, are standing behind you and trying to share this difficult moment with all of you.”

Also on Friday, the UN and its partners launched an appeal on Friday for nearly $600 million to help the victims of the earthquake, which has left basic services on the brink of collapse in Port-au-Prince.

The funds are intended to assist an estimated 3 million affected people over a period of six months, with half of the funds being earmarked for emergency food aid, with the rest targeted at health, water, sanitation, nutrition, early recovery, emergency education and other key needs.

For his part, General Assembly President Ali Treki said in a statement today that he “salutes the resilience of the people of Haiti whose courage should be matched by the continued commitment of the entire international community.”

He expressed his gratitude to civil society organizations and others for their efforts to delivery much-needed aid and other assistance.


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