UN appeals for $59 million to help hurricane victims in Haiti and Grenada

UN appeals for $59 million to help hurricane victims in Haiti and Grenada

Jan Egeland briefs press on appeals
United Nations humanitarian agencies today appealed for $59 million to help the people of Haiti and Grenada survive and start to reconstruct their lives in the wake of the series of deadly hurricanes and tropical storms that swept the Caribbean region recently.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told reporters that Haiti needs almost $32 million and Grenada requires $27 million, just to cover the next six months. So far only $5 million has been received for each country.

In Haiti, more than 1,500 people have been killed and at least 900 others are missing after Tropical Storm Jeanne brought floods and mudslides to the north of the country two weeks ago, according to the national authorities. In Grenada, government estimates say dozens are dead and 90 per cent of homes were damaged or destroyed when Hurricane Ivan struck on 7 September.

An unusually high number of hurricanes have lashed the Caribbean this season, bringing casualties and causing damage from the United States to Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr. Egeland said the impact on Haiti and Grenada, however, was so much worse that "many of the other hurricane-affected societies of the Caribbean have begged us to concentrate on Grenada and Haiti, saying that they will try to cope on their own."

UN agencies say more than $12 million of the Haiti appeal has been designated for food and health care, while establishing and maintaining clean water and sanitation services is expected to cost almost $5 million. Funds will also be spent on education, agriculture and on trying to kick-start the country's fragile economy.

In Grenada, the focus is more on helping to rebuild the thousands of shattered homes and buildings; almost $9 million is needed for shelter there, according to UN agencies.

Mr. Egeland said it was also important to look beyond the short-term humanitarian needs and consider what should be done to ameliorate the impact of future natural disasters in the Caribbean. He called for better early-warning systems and said countries should be more prepared to respond once a disaster strikes.

Mr. Egeland noted that Cuba, for example, suffered relatively little damage from Hurricane Ivan when it struck last month, even though it was a more severe storm than the one that lashed Haiti.

He described the situation in northern Haiti as a "social and environmental catastrophe: there are no trees left that can hold [the] water and mudslides back that caused the catastrophe."

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym of MINUSTAH), which is trying to expedite the number of deployed troops so that it can help with relief efforts, now has 3,089 peacekeepers on the ground.

In Gonaïves, the worst-affected city, contingents of troops from Argentina and Uruguay are providing medical assistance and escorting convoys of trucks carrying food and water, MINUSTAH reported.

Meanwhile, in Grenada a survey by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has shown that half of the nation's estimated 110,000 citizens are homeless and in need of basic supplies.

The survey also indicates the devastation caused to Grenada's tourism industry, its biggest foreign exchange earner, ahead of the normally profitable winter holiday season.