Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Huge challenges face UN, int’l community two months after Haiti quake

From the Yemen News Agency (Saba)

Although it has been nearly two months since the terrible earthquake hit Haiti, the United Nations believes in its periodic evaluation of the situation there that there remained an unprecedented magnitude of suffering is in the country, according to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a press release that “two months after the earthquake, the Revised Humanitarian Appeal was funded by only 49 percent.” Such a leak in the finance of the rebuild of Haiti would reflected on the programs of the international organizations interested in saving the people of Haiti, devastated after the earthquake that hit on January 12 and killed some 230,000 people who were buried in mass graves.

Paul Garwood of the World Health Organization (WHO) said, on his part, that “two months after the earthquake much had been achieved in the health sector, but still much more needs to be done.” WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund and partners had vaccinated more than 300,000 children and adults against a range of infectious diseases, particularly measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and weeping-cough.

WHO and its partners had also monitored water quality only at three major water distribution points, said Garwood.

According to the WHO expert, there were still major gaps, particularly in the number of healthcare staffs and training of staff. Also many hospitals still suffered structural damage; almost half of the Haiti’s health facilities in and around Port-au-Prince had sustained damages. There were also still an insufficient number of post-op beds.

Also, with the upcoming rainy season there were many risks around the issue of water-born diseases. Malaria cases had already started to increase, said Garwood.
There is no doubt that the remnants of the earthquake and conspicuous everywhere Haiti also leave their mark on the environment.

Andrew Morton, Haiti Programme Manager, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that “before the earthquake, Haiti had been the most degraded country in the Western Hemisphere. The conditions in the cities before the earthquake had already been quite difficult, with lack of sanitation, waste management and electricity.” Among the problems UNEP identified were the millions of tons of debris from the fallen buildings. The debris included not just concrete but everything that had been contained in the buildings, such as wood, plastic, metal and clothing. Another issue was the major increase in municipal waste and especially in healthcare waste, due to the burst in medical activity. It was estimated that the volume of healthcare waste had tripled, said Morton.

As the relief effort had came in, it had also added to the waste burden. Municipal waste services had also suffered logistical and human losses during the earthquake.
When the problems of environment and health meet together in such an alliance of tragic drama, as was witnessed in Haiti today, there is no doubt that the implications for the rights will be directly, he said, and called the International Organization for Migration to organize programs of social and psychological help for the people of Haiti.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that the “IOM was conducting a psychosocial assistance programme for a periode of five months, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and some 30 other partners.” The programme consisted of mobile psychosocial teams visiting settlements to meet with families. Each team had a psychologist, social worker, artistic animators, and a team leader.

Creative approaches were needed to support the emotional wellbeing of Haitians through culture and craft. The therapeutic activities were also aimed to help communities preserve and rebuild former relationships – including the traditional Haitian concept of “lakou,” a place where families gather and chat.

Marc Vergara of the United Nations Children’s Fund said that, before the earthquake, one children in three under five years of age had been estimated to be malnourished and one in 20 were suffering from severe malnourishment.

An estimated 500,000 children under five year of age and approximately 200, 000 pregnant women or with infants had been affected by the earthquake.

These numbers were expected to increase in the coming months, due to the current living conditions in Haiti and with the start of the rainy season.

The results of that humanitarian problems and the worsening of the environment after the earthquake in Haiti constitutes a major concern for the United Nations, where experts fear the implications for stability in Haiti, and surrounding areas.

Haiti is a country under the rubble need to be a complete rebuild in an extremely complex mission, where both the UN organizations and the international community are facing a huge challenge.

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