|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Haiti by Emergency Relief Coordinator
As the focus in Haiti turned to long-term recovery and development, significant humanitarian needs still had to be addressed, with 600,000 people remaining homeless after last year’s earthquake, the United Nations top humanitarian official said this afternoon, following a two-day visit to the country.
“It is essential that the humanitarian response complement sustainable development initiatives, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference.
Ms. Amos said that the number of people living in displaced persons camps had declined from 1.5 million to 600,000, but many of them lacked basic services and were prey to sexual violence and cholera. Meanwhile, out of $382 million requested for relief and protection work, only 57 per cent had been received.
During her stay in Haiti at the end of September, Ms. Amos had spoken with Government officials, camp residents and representatives of donors and aid organizations. She had also visited a sewage treatment plant that had drawn initial funding from the United Nations-managed Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and was now run by the Haitian Water Authority with support from the Organization.
At the Accra camp, which hosts 25,500 people in the commune of Delmas, residents had voiced frustration over their plight, telling her that they wanted to leave, but could not get jobs, could not afford to pay rent or were faced with the land tenure problems that hampered efforts for new housing.
Latrines were overflowing, she said, threatening a further spread of cholera, although fewer people were dying every month from the disease overall, despite an uptick in September due to heavy rains. Relief priorities in the camps included access to safe drinking water, sanitation, food security and protection against sexual violence.
Asked whether the low response to the humanitarian appeal was due to the global economic crisis, Ms. Amos said that a combination of factors was involved. The famine in the Horn of Africa was a major focus of donors at the moment. The appeal for the recent floods in Pakistan was only 12 per cent funded so far. “Donors are beginning to feel extremely stretched.”
On the impact of the accusations of sexual abuse levied against a contingent of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), she said that, from what she had seen, the allegations did not cause Haitians in the camps to turn against international humanitarian relief efforts. The subject had dominated a press conference she gave in Haiti, along with cholera. The conversations in the camps, however, were all about jobs, crime and the desire to move into permanent homes.
Asked about a planned visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ms. Amos said it was scheduled to take place from 17 to 21 October, and had a solely humanitarian concern, namely the 6 million people in need of food assistance. She planned to talk to authorities about their plans to deal with food security and make field visits to different parts of the country.
She said that an appeal to assist those people was only 30 per cent funded, with donors concerned whether assistance would reach those in need. She was assuring donors that monitoring mechanisms had substantially improved and included spot visits by the World Food Programme (WFP).
Asked about ongoing humanitarian needs in Libya, she said the current focus was on people in Sirte and other still-embattled enclaves, with concerns about people fleeing into the desert without supplies. In Sirte itself, the food situation was unclear, but there were probably shortages of water and fuel.
In other areas of Libya, she said, residual humanitarian needs must be addressed, but she could envision a situation by the end of the year in which the major part of the humanitarian response would be over.
On efforts to fund relief for Pakistan, she said she was appealing to donors, making it clear that the needs assessments that had been performed were accurate. Donors also wanted to know how money requested for last year’s crisis had been spent. There were some issues there for the Government to address, she affirmed.
Finally, asked how the Palestinian bid for United Nations membership was affecting the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, she said she was focused on resolving the issue of the blockade, because, even with the easing of restrictions, the situation was not back to what it was in 2007. If there was more economic development there, conditions would improve, she said.
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