|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator
on Humanitarian Efforts in Haiti
Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, speaking at a Headquarters press conference today on her recent trip to Haiti, said that an enormous amount had been accomplished by the humanitarian community and the Haitian Government, but with 1.3 million people still living in camps, there was still a long road to recovery.
In her assessment of the humanitarian response and conditions following the 12 January earthquake, Ms. Bragg said she was “very, very concerned” by the Government’s confirmation of the cholera outbreak. “The United Nations and the humanitarian community will do everything we can in the days ahead,” she said, in order to address the 1,500-plus cases and 138 deaths reported so far. At the request of the Government, she noted that medical teams had been mobilized and medical supplies were being distributed, including 10,000 boxes of water purification tablets, 2,500 jerrycans and the same number of buckets and hygiene kits.
“The point here is that cholera deaths are preventable,” she said. Noting that 300,000 courses of antibiotics were already “in country” and ready for distribution, she added, “We are confident that we can do a lot and quickly head this off.” Also reassuring was the fact that the outbreak had occurred in Saint-Marc, which was not near any of the main displaced persons’ camps.
Although the outbreak was an extreme concern, she said the magnitude of what had been achieved should not be forgotten. Looking back on the consolidated appeal issued within 72 hours of the earthquake, she underlined that “all the strategic objectives and targets set for providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance” had been met or were on track to be met. In addition, no major outbreaks of infectious diseases had been reported and there had not been the feared second wave of mortality.
On the other hand, some conditions in the camps were “truly awful”. In one case she witnessed, a woman was living with her baby in a three-by-four-metre shack with seven other people. The heat had surpassed 40° Celsius and “water falling from the roof had turned the floor into thick mud”. That was “totally unacceptable”, she said. “However, with 1.3 million people still living in camps, we also need to be realistic about how long it’s going to take to get everybody to where they want to be,” she asserted.
Recovery efforts had to be accelerated to rehabilitate houses, remove rubble and re-establish basic services, she said, highlighting that a humanitarian appeal would be re-launched in January.
During the question-and-answer period, she noted that 80 to 90 per cent of the Haitians displaced came from nearby communities, but a lack of services and inhabitable houses had deterred them from returning. According to a recent survey, she noted their primary concern was employment, with schools being third on the list. In response to a question concerning incidences of rape, she replied that the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission had just approved a $10 million project headed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to address the issue, and it had also been raised with both the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. She also understood that there were now over 500 United Nations police patrolling six of the largest camps, with others monitored by units from MINUSTAH on night patrols.
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