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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Excerpts from the Secretary-General's joint press encounter with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (translated from Spanish)

La Moneda, Santiago, Chile, 5 March 2010

SG: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen of the press. First of all, I'd like to start by expressing my deepest condolences and support for all those affected by the earthquake, for those who have lost family members – my deepest condolences to the people and government of Chile.

I'd also like to congratulate President Bachelet for her great leadership, for her great commitment in dealing with this national catastrophe. Her leadership has been extraordinary in regard to this natural catastrophe. We know this is one the worst earthquakes in Chile's modern history. The fact that more lives were saved and [more] potential loss of life was avoided testifies to the quality of the preparation that Chile has for dealing with emergencies. Still, the damage is extensive and the estimates for the cost of reconstruction rise each day. I've seen in person the damage suffered by the UN building here, which was extensive.

Madame President and ladies and gentlemen, I am here to show my strong support, my solidarity with the people of Chile during this challenging time. I also want to get a fuller picture of the scale of destruction so the United Nations can better help the government respond to this disaster and help you build a better Chile for the future. President Bachelet and I had an excellent meeting , along with the ministers, which was very useful for them to identify for us where and how the United Nations and the international community can best help the people of Chile, the government of Chile, to repair the destroyed infrastructure.

We are here, ready and prepared to [provide] support during this emergency humanitarian situation. And the United Nations team here - with 14 UN agencies here - those 14 stand ready to provide you with help.

I will also have the opportunity of meeting with President-elect Sebastian Pinera. Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to see the city of Concepcion personally, the region, and how the United Nations and the international community can help [it] recover from this damage.

Chile has demonstrated extraordinary generosity during Haiti's earthquake. It's moving how you showed such strong support and generosity for the people of Haiti. It strikes me that in this area, we have had the Haiti earthquake and also this terrible earthquake here in Chile. These teach us some lessons. What lessons can we learn? We need to be ready. To have a structure - a structured framework - to better prevent these catastrophes. The UN places great priority on having such structures that can reduce the risks from catastrophes and we hope to work together on this.

Thank you for the support Chile provided to Haiti and now is the time that the UN and the international community stand ready to support the people of Chile. The people of Chile have demonstrated great courage, tenacity, and resilience to overcome this tragedy and I am sure that you will build a great future under your [President Bachelet] leadership and that of the incoming president.

Ladies and gentlemen, as a result of the joint meeting between the UN and the Government of Chile, we have agreed to establish a joint working group to evaluate the most urgent needs in health, sanitation, temporary shelter, nutrition, [inaudible] – and so the United Nations will authorize the release of $10 million from the Central Emergency Relief Fund to help the government to deal with the emergency. The United Nations will continue working with the rest of the Member States to help you recover from this. Again, from the bottom of my heart, my support and solidarity with the people of Chile. Thank you very much.

Q: (Bloomberg News) Sometimes the big concern after an earthquake as big as this one is connectivity and rescue of victims. What other measures do you think the Chilean government, and how the United Nations can help, to solve health concerns? There's been an announcement of tetanus and hepatitis vaccinations [inaudible].

President Bachelet: [response]

SG: First, I couldn't understand the questions because there was no microphone... If I may add to what President Bachelet has answered to this question – the President has answered extensively and completely - but if I could add more generally, in times of natural disasters, the United Nations pays urgent attention to food, water, sanitation and health. In our meetings with the ministers, they told us that the Government of Chile has the capacity to deal with good, water and energy. They told me they have concerns about shelter and health matters. The United Nations is going to analyze this; as I mentioned, we have established joint working group between the United Nations and the Government of Chile. We are going to analyze these issues through a joint working group and we will evaluate where and how we can help in health issues. Preventing the spread of disease in times of crisis is a very important matter and something to which we pay great attention. And we are going to closely examine that with the Government of Chile.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, [inaudible] from SBS Korea. You've spoken of many things which the world can help with. If you had to prioritize, what would be your number one priority in the list and what will you speak about with President-elect Pinera tomorrow?

SG: We have received a request from the Government of Chile and the Government of Chile wants defined areas of support. We have already provided some satellite telephones. They want generators, [inaudible], mobile hospitals; there are many areas we are considering now. As I explained to you, there are joint working group which will closely coordinate with the Government of Chile. The most urgent area is health, sanitation and shelter; and, fishing, artisanal and coastal areas, we're told that the people need shelter. And with the emergency cash program, with $10 million, we are going to try to focus precisely on these areas with urgent needs.