Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed flew to Haiti yesterday evening to express the UN’s unwavering support to the Haitian people following the earthquake that devastated the country six days ago.
The number of affected people continues to climb in the aftermath of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti’s southern peninsula on 14 August. More than 2,100 people have been reported killed, and 10,000 others injured so far.
The quake was followed by Tropical Storm Grace, which caused flooding in the quake-affected areas. According to authorities, an estimated 600,000 people need humanitarian assistance.
During her mission, Ms. Mohammed met with affected communities in the earthquake-damaged city of Les Cayes.
“I saw once again the incredible resilience of the Haitian people who have suffered so much and are now mobilized to support their neighbours and communities in the aftermath of the earthquake.” she said.
She added: “We stand here in solidarity with Haiti and are in awe at the incredible work the national authorities and the UN agencies are doing to help in these difficult times”, she said.
Words of encouragement
Upon her arrival last night, Ms. Mohammed met with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and reiterated the UN’s support for the struggling Government.
Accompanied by Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), they also met with the UN Country Team, as well as with members of civil society.
They visited the South Department, which was particularly affected by the quake, met with people impacted in Les Cayes and visited the Immaculate Conception Hospital.
The deputy UN chief offered words of encouragement to national and international employees working alongside national institutions.
Solidarity, hope and lessons for the future
Ms. Mohammed said there were lessons to be learnt from the 2010 earthquake to do things differently so that Haiti can recover better. This, she underlined, “will require investing in long-term development and supporting Government leadership”.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said, “What I have seen on this visit is devastating — so much destruction and suffering. And yet, at the same time I have seen the solidarity and hope of the Haitian people in the face of such a tragedy.”
He stressed: “Haiti needs our support in this critical moment. The UN Development Programme will do its utmost to support the people of Haiti in this hour of need as well as in the ongoing recovery and reconstruction.”
UN on the ground
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are on the ground, working with partners to deliver urgently needed supplies, including medicine, safe water and tarpaulins, even as flooding and mudslides hamper relief efforts.
And the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group expressed its solidarity with the people of Haiti and called on the international community to “remain collectively engaged” in addressing both immediate humanitarian needs and the country’s “long-term sustainable development”.
It only took ‘a few seconds’
Marianela González of the World Food Programme (WFP) was in Port au Prince when the earthquake shook southern Haiti.
She said that “it took a few seconds to realize what was actually happening, but in those seconds hundreds of people had died”.
Even before the quake, WFP has been supporting more than 200,000 people who cannot afford even one meal per day.
“The earthquake happened under the same people, the roof fell on the same people, and Tropical Storm Grace rained on the same people in Les Cayes, Jérémie and many other communities where the damage and needs were also visible”, said the WFP official.
Another layer of crisis
Ms. González described the earthquake as “a layer of crisis on top of a much longer and much deeper crisis in Haiti”.
Meanwhile, WFP continues to distribute hot meals in hospitals, cash and logistical capacity to support humanitarian and medical assistance.
“Definitely hard to be here today and enter those hospitals, to see people on the streets without roof to sleep under, especially children”, she said. “But we are here, and it is a privilege and a responsibility”.
Focus on humanitarian needs
Earler in the day, the Secretary-General’s Associate Spokesperson, Eri Kaneko, informed journalists at a daily media briefing that the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ramesh Rajasingham will visit the country on Monday to draw international attention to the increasing humanitarian needs following Saturday’s devastating earthquake.
During three days of field visits, he is scheduled to engage with internally displaced people, local authorities and national and international responders.
Mr. Rajasingham is also expected to meet national authorities and diplomatic representatives in Port-au-Prince.