Tarps, toilets are priorities for quake-hit Haiti: U.N.

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti urgently needs tarpaulins, tents and 25,000 toilets one month after a magnitude 7 earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, the United Nation’s top aid official said on Friday.

A Haitian child takes medicine at the Gheskio Hospital in Port-au-Prince February 5, 2010. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said the emergency medical care phase of dealing with earthquake trauma patients is “mostly over.” He added that one month after the disaster the two top priorities for impoverished Haiti are shelter and sanitation.

“It is urgent to get everybody with some kind of reasonably waterproof covering over their heads,” Holmes told reporters after a tour of earthquake recovery sites in Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns.

Holmes said only 30 to 35 percent of the need for waterproof shelter has been met.

The Haitian government estimates that a million earthquake survivors are living in the streets in makeshift encampments with shelters fashioned from tarpaulins, sheets of corrugated zinc, tents and bedsheets lashed together with rope and twine.

Most of the estimated 500 camps have no water or toilets. Holmes said providing latrines is a major challenge.

“We need to construct something like 25,000 latrines of one sort or another, whether they be dug latrines, trench latrines or portable latrines,” he said. “We’re probably not more than 5 or 10 percent of the way there.”

Government officials say diarrhea, tetanus and some cases of fever have been seen in the camps but no epidemics have developed.

Doctors are almost done dealing with traumatic injuries, as thousands of Haitians suffered broken bones and crush injuries in the collapse of homes and buildings. But Holmes said rehabilitation for amputees and rebuilding Haiti’s health infrastructure are long-term challenges.

He also said a flash international appeal for $575 million for Haitian quake relief was 99 percent funded, and the United Nations would be issuing a new appeal next week. The amount was not yet known.

Reporting by Jesus Frias, writing by Jim Loney; editing by Pascal Fletcher and Will Dunham