March 29, 2010 / 9:01 PM / 10 years ago

Haiti humanitarian need competes with recovery plan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - As donors are being asked to dig deep for Haiti’s reconstruction, they also need to address the country’s immediate humanitarian need as hurricane season looms and quake survivors face increasing violence, U.N. officials said on Monday.

An earthquake survivor walks in a street with debris in downtown Port-au-Prince March 16, 2010. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

While a U.N. summit in New York on Wednesday will aim to raise an initial $3.8 billion for the impoverished Caribbean nation’s recovery, an appeal by the world body for $1.4 billion in humanitarian aid is 52 percent short of its goal.

The initial appeal by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for $575 million was met within a month, but when the call for funding was later more than doubled, the donations slowed to a trickle.

“Perhaps the extension of the flash appeal has got a little bit crowded by the fact that this conference — with a big ask for recovery — is coming, so maybe donors have held back a little,” said U.N. Development Program chief Helen Clark.

“Obviously this medium/long term reconstruction recovery is incredibly important but ... if we don’t get the humanitarian relief side right as well you don’t have the foundation for the successful longer term recovery,” she told a news conference.

Possibly more than 300,000 were killed when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on January 12 in what some experts are calling the deadliest natural disaster of modern times. Haiti’s economy and infrastructure were decimated and more than 1 million survivors left homeless.

“We should not think that the humanitarian crisis is over. The rain and the hurricane season will start soon,” said Edmond Mulet, acting head of the U.N. mission in Haiti.

“This may cause hundreds of thousands of Haitians who now live in tents — some made of sticks and cardboard — to once again lose everything,” he said. “Lives are at stake; we need to urgently build more durable shelter.”

He also said protection of the vulnerable, particularly the women and children in camps, needed to be strengthened. “But time and money is running out,” Mulet said.

Violence is also increasing, he said, with the National Hospital, morgue and aid group Doctors Without Borders reporting an increase in gunshot wounds. Mulet said there had also been a rise in sexual violence.

Mulet gained notoriety for wielding an iron fist during a previous stint as head of the U.N. mission when he led mostly Brazilian “blue helmet” troops in a successful crackdown on Haiti’s heavily armed gangs.

“Now they are outside on the streets so now we have to start all over again from zero,” he said of the thousands of gang members who escaped from jail after the earthquake.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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