December 17, 2012

UN seeks $144 million in additional humanitarian aid for Haiti

As a food crisis looms in disaster-prone Haiti, United Nations aid agencies plan to launch a $144 million humanitarian appeal.

The United Nations on Tuesday will launch a $144 million appeal to fund humanitarian programs that aid officials here say is urgently needed to help Haiti cope with the ongoing effects of Tropical Storm Sandy and other recent shocks.

Already battling a deadly cholera epidemic that has killed 7,824 and sickened 629,300, Haitians are now facing a looming food crisis. Up to 1.5 million Haitians are facing increased hunger, a recent study has concluded — the result of the combined effects of $174 million in losses to livestock, crops and agricultural infrastructure after Tropical Storm Sandy hit in October and Tropical Storm Isaac in August; rising food prices; and a drought that hit Haiti’s northern regions earlier in the year.

“Life isn’t good,” said Natasha Daniel, 33, who lives in a tent city in downtown Port-au-Prince. “You’ve got cholera here killing us, all of the (non-governmental organizations) have left and we here are still left in the camps.”

Since the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti has managed to reduce the number of homeless camp dwellers from a high of 1.5 million immediately after the disaster to 358,000 today. Still, recovery and rebuilding has been slow and many challenges remain.

The recent weather-related disasters also haven’t help, ruining agricultural crops throughout the poverty-stricken nation.

The latest U.N. humanitarian appeal comes almost a week after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the world body was joining a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera eradication plan on the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. Critics charge that the United Nations should do more.

Still, the strategy is long-term and plenty of help is needed in the interim, said Nigel Fisher, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Haiti.

“We get hit by the Sandys and so on, and we lose some of the resources we have like the Cholera Treatment Centers,” said Fisher, noting that at least 60 treatment center must be replaced. “We have a better alert system in the ministry of health, but we still need the logistics to get out to the health centers.”

In addition to addressing cholera, Haitians also need cash-for-work and nutritional programs to get them through the coming months, said Myrta Kaulard, World Food Program country director. After Sandy, WFP did some emergency food distributions, along with the Haitian government, and started distributing a family food ration to children in schools in the worst affected areas.

The appeal comes as humanitarian assistance dries up as illustrated by cutbacks and departures of non-governmental organizations since the earthquake, and the slow response to recent appeals. In 2010, UN humanitarian agencies requested $1.5 billion for Haiti and received $1.1 billion. The following year, they only raised $214 million from a $382 million request.

A $40 million appeal immediately after Sandy garnered $14 million and another $15 million in commitments from foreign donors, Fisher said.

George Ngwa Anuongong, spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said there are a combination of factors to explain the lackluster international response.

“There are more humanitarian emergencies in the world today and the pool of funding is limited. That’s one reason,” he said. “The other reason, there are lots of partners who would like to see a transition from humanitarian to much more sustainable development so that we don’t have people living in the camps three years after the quake.”

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