UN Appeal for Haitian Quake Relief Only Half Funded

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Environment News Service (ENS)

UN Appeal for Haitian Quake Relief Only Half Funded

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Some 50,000 displaced Haitians are camped out in tents on the grounds of a Port-au-Prince golf club. (Photo by Sophia Paris courtesy UN)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Two months after
the ruinous January 12 earthquake in Haiti, the United Nations' $1.44
billion revised humanitarian appeal for the country is only 49 percent
funded, UN officials said today.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
OCHA, says humanitarian work is picking up speed, but emergency shelter
and sanitation are still urgently needed ahead of the rainy season.
Steady rains could come as soon as the end of March, and hurricane
season starts in June.

More than 212,000 people died as a result of the 7.0-magnitude
quake and nearly 300,000 others were injured. The number of displaced
people amounts to about 1.2 million, according to Haitian government
figures.

OCHA reports that more than 4.3 million people have received food
assistance, 1.2 million people are receiving daily water distributions,
and more than 300,000 children and adults have been vaccinated against
a range of infectious diseases, including measles, rubella, diphtheria,
tetanus and whooping cough.

Emergency shelter materials have been distributed to more than
650,000 people, about 56 percent of those left homeless by the quake,
which claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will make a one-day visit to
Haiti on Sunday, his second to the Caribbean country since the
earthquake, his spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters at UN
headquarters in New York today.

While in the capital, Port-au-Prince, Ban will meet with
President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, as well as
with the leadership of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti and UN
agencies working on the ground.

The Secretary-General will visit a camp housing some of the people displaced by the earthquake.

Preparations are now starting on two sites identified by the Haitian
government for the relocation of internally displaced persons from
high-risk settlement sites. The first site for relocation will have its
official inauguration tomorrow.

The earthquake disaster is compounded by the lack of trees in
Haiti, which has one of the worst rates of deforestation in the world.

Only two percent of Haiti's original forests remain and Haitian
deforestion makes it impossible to source timber for transitional
shelters from within the island nation. Timber to create transitional
shelter for up to 500,000 people for two years will have to be imported
with support from the international community, UN officials say.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is asking people to
help children in Haiti by donating a fruit tree that they can plant in
school yards across the country.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf will launch the Fruit Trees
for Haiti initiative at a symbolic tree-planting at a school in the
town of Croix des Bouquets, outside of Port-au-Prince. While untouched
by the earthquake, the school now is hosting tens of thousands of
refugees from the capital.

Diouf is on a three day mission to Haiti to raise awareness about the need for international support to agriculture in Haiti.

He says a $5 donation to the initiative buys an avocado or mango tree
for a Haitian school garden, and covers fertilizer and other inputs as
well as educational material about the value of trees. For instance,
buildings surrounded by trees are better protected from the flooding
that can occur in the Haitian rainy season.

The FAO and the nonprofit aid agency CARE have issued a joint alert over a national food crisis in Haiti.

Rapid assessments undertaken by FAO and its partners have shown that
"host families" caring for displaced people are spending their meager
savings to feed new arrivals and consuming food stocks. In many cases,
they are resorting to eating the seeds they have stored for the next
season and eating or selling their livestock.

The main planting season, which accounts for over 60 percent of annual
production, has now begun, but Jean-Dominique Bodard, CARE's emergency
food security specialist, warns, "If the host families have no means to
buy seeds or other ways to obtain quality seeds, this will be a
disaster for them."

"And there is another aspect to this vicious circle: due to
lack of cash, many host farmers will not be able to hire day laborers
for the planting," he said. "As an effect, the laborers will not earn
money to feed their families and the planting will not be carried out
to the extent it could be if the workforce were available."

FAO has kick-started a small cash-for-work program cleaning out
irrigation canals in Leogane and CARE will work to scale it up in the
coming days from 600 to 4,000 people.

A larger cash-for-work program is being run by the UN Development
Programme. As of March 5, more than 70,000 Haitians were employed under
this program, and UNDP has set the goal of reaching more than 400,000
people by December 2010, indirectly benefiting two million Haitians.
Each worker is paid 180 gourdes, or about US$4.5, for six hours of
labor.

The work includes removing building rubble from the streets, crushing
and sorting reusable material, disposal of debris, and restoring
essential public facilities to lay the foundations for mid-term
recovery and development. Haitians are also clearing sites for safe
re-settlement, repairing surface water drainage and improving road
access to and through affected areas.

On sanitation, 3,673 latrines of the required 13,000 latrines
have been installed, but there are space problems due to millions of
tons of debris in the streets, according to the UN Children's Fund,
UNICEF, which is leading the sanitation effort.

Haiti's traditional system of separating trash by hand has
raised concerns about contamination from healthcare waste given the
burst in medical activity.

"It is estimated that the volume of healthcare waste had tripled,"
Andrew Morton, UNEP programme manager in Haiti, told a news conference
in Geneva. UNEP has brought in a large number of containers for
segregation of waste, and purchased additional fuel for trash
incineration.

The World Health Organization has warned about the increased risk of
water-borne diseases when the rainy season begins. Malaria cases have
already started to increase, WHO spokesperson Paul Garwood told
reporters at the Geneva briefing.

Aid officials are also worried about an expected increase in
malnourished children. An estimated 500,000 children under five years
and some 200,000 women who are pregnant or with infants have been
affected by the earthquake, according to UNICEF.

The agency is working with WHO and other partners to send
mobile psychosocial teams to speak with families in settlements
throughout the region. The therapeutic activities include the
traditional Haitian concept of "lakou," a place where families gather
and chat.

In addition to counselling, aid officials hope that going to
school will help normalize the lives of some children. Some 1,400 tents
are being set up for some 200,000 children to start attending school in
shifts starting on April 1.

"The international response has been very generous, including
from a number of developing countries," said Jordan Ryan, director of
UNDP's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery. "But Haiti needs
continued donor support to build strong democratic institutions, put in
place effective disaster preparedness measures and reduce extreme
poverty. Now is the time for even more support for the people of
Haiti."

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