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Haiti Quake and Humanitarian Needs

After six months, humanitarian needs of Haiti quake victims still “immense”

Nelson Alcantara  Jul 12, 2010

(eTN) - The humanitarian needs of people affected by January’s earthquake in Haiti remain immense, United Nations agencies and their partners said Monday, July 12, in a report, which also takes stock of the response effort and presents lessons learned from the challenging and complex emergency.

“It is clear that the needs are still immense, and the challenges facing the response operation potentially daunting,” the agencies, which are members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making of key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners.

“Foremost amongst these challenges is shelter – working with the Government to identify durable solutions for the secure settlement of the displaced population,” the agencies said in their report, entitled “Haiti Earthquake Response, 6-Month Report,” which was launched today in Haiti.

According to the agencies, the most important lesson learned was the need to better understand and work more effectively with the various actors from outside the humanitarian context, including the military and the private sector.

“The global humanitarian architecture must be critically reviewed to ensure that it is not implemented in such a way as to preclude such partnerships which are critical to the most effective response,” they said.

They also noted the need for the humanitarian community to review how it should adapt to urban responses and to identify the necessary expertise, tools, knowledge, and partnerships to be able to operate effectively in such environments.

“Ensuring a better understanding of vulnerability – and what this means for humanitarian assistance strategies – is a priority for humanitarian actors. One way this can be strengthened is through learning how to communicate better with disaster-affected populations, which would lead to an improved understanding of the operating context,” they said.

They said the devastation caused by the January 12 quake – in which more than 200,000 people were killed, 1.3 million more were left homeless and key infrastructure was destroyed – was compounded by underlying vulnerabilities in Haiti, including systemic poverty, structural challenges, weak governance, and an almost annual exposure to floods, hurricanes and related disasters.

Response was made difficult by the fact that earthquake occurred in an urban setting, a context unfamiliar to many humanitarian actors and which presented significant logistics and access hurdles.

The humanitarian organizations said that despite the challenging operating environment, the relief operation largely achieved its immediate objectives and responded effectively to the critical needs identified.

Approximately four million people have so far received food assistance, emergency shelter materials have been distributed to 1.5 million people, safe water has been made available to 1.2 million people, and one million people have benefited from cash-for-work programs.

In camps and spontaneous settlements housing approximately 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), basic services such as health clinics, educational support, and water and sanitation facilities have been provided, while joint patrolling by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Haitian police is helping to protect the most vulnerable.

In rural areas, over 142,000 farming families have been supported with critical inputs for the spring planting season, while targeted nutritional programs have aimed to reduce severe acute malnutrition among those affected by the earthquake.

“We have seen extraordinary strength as Haitians coped with appalling suffering with dignity, calm, and truly humbling willingness to help each other regardless of how little they have,” said Nigel Fisher, the deputy special representative of the secretary general to Haiti and UN humanitarian and resident coordinator in the country.

After six months, humanitarian needs of Haiti quake victims still “immense”
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