UN official calls for more long-term aid for Haiti

NEW YORK, United States, Wednesday November 30, 2011 – A top United Nations official has appealed for more long-term assistance for Haiti, while at the same time rejecting criticism of slow aid distribution.

“Even as housing and resettlement programmes accelerate, thousands of people still have basic social needs at a time when humanitarian funding is decreasing and too many partners are closing essential operations,” said Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti.

He pointed out that 88 per cent out of the US$4.6 billion in aid pledged by countries last year have already been dispersed or committed.

“The suggestion that no progress has been achieved is to paint a false picture,” Fisher said yesterday, adding that continued support will make it possible for the country to achieve further advances.

He said funds have been used for specific programmes such as transport, debris removal, education, job creation, water and sanitation, public administration, health, housing, and energy.

According to Fisher, Haiti has shown remarkable signs of progress with almost 50 per cent of debris cleared so far.

Large-scale recovery projects, he remarked, were already starting to have a visible impact in the country almost two years after the devastating earthquake killed over 200,000 people.

“In July 2010, 1.5 million Haitians were sheltered in camps receiving clean water, food, medical care and access to latrines. Today, 500,000 people are still in those camps. While this is still a significant number, it represents a two-thirds reduction in just over a year,” he stated.

Haiti is regarded as the poorest country in the Southern Hemisphere with three quarters of the population earning less than two dollars a day.

Fisher noted that 70 per cent of Haitians did not have stable jobs prior to the devastating earthquake, more than half of children did not go to school, and between 70 to 80 per cent had no access to electricity.

“The earthquake highlighted decades of chronic political instability, lack of basic social services and economic opportunities that left so many Haitians in deep poverty and chronic vulnerability,” Fisher added.

Regarding the cholera outbreak that started last year, Fisher said a national response system and an alert system are now in place, and that fatality rates have dropped to just over one per cent.

More than 6,500 Haitians have since died from the water-borne disease, while around half a million people have been made ill.

Earlier this month, 5,000 victims demanded hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from the UN whose Nepalese peacekeepers are believed to have brought the disease to Haiti. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)