Don't forget Haiti, top U.N. aid official urges donors

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2011 6:59 PM
Don't forget Haiti, top U.N. aid official urges donors

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - International aid donors should not forget the plight of 600,000 earthquake survivors still living in a critical situation in camps in Haiti, the top U.N. humanitarian official said on Thursday.

On a visit to the poor Caribbean state that is still struggling to rebuild from a destructive January 2010 earthquake, Valerie Amos said she was concerned that Haiti's remaining humanitarian needs might be neglected by rich countries grappling with problems in their own economies.

Other disasters such as the drought and famine affecting millions in the Horn of Africa also demanded attention.

"Part of my job is to make sure we do not forget about Haiti ... The situation of the people in the camps is still very critical," Amos told Reuters in the wrecked capital Port-au-Prince.

She said a U.N. humanitarian appeal this year for Haiti was only half funded. According to figures from the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA, of the total $382 million required from donors this year, only $199 million had been funded.

"It's a case we need to make," Amos added.

While the total of quake survivors living in fragile tent and tarpaulin camps in Port-au-Prince had fallen since last year by more than half to around 600,000, Amos said these people still required humanitarian help.

"We have to support 600,000 people. We have to improve the water sanitation. Because of a lack of funding some of our NGO partners have pulled out. So the facilities are not as good as they were previously," she said.

"It's absolutely critical because if we do not in particular sort out the water sanitation we will have a resurgence of cholera," the U.N. official said, recalling the threat of a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 6,300 people since it broke out in October, months after the quake.

Despite billions of dollars pledged by donors, the huge international humanitarian operation that followed the 2010 earthquake has been criticized as slow to deliver results, especially in rubble removal and survivor resettlement.

Haiti's government said more than 300,000 people were killed in the disaster and many more left homeless.

Amos spoke out against evictions of some of the camp dwellers ordered by landowners, saying Haitian President Michel Martelly opposed such actions.

Camp security also needed to be improved, to prevent rapes and sexual attacks against vulnerable women and girls.

As Europe struggles to solve its sovereign debt crisis and U.S. growth falters, humanitarian officials are increasingly worried that the governments of the world's richest nations will be under pressure to cut aid budgets.

(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Philip Barbara)