United Nations steps up aid to US in wake of Hurricane Katrina

United Nations steps up aid to US in wake of Hurricane Katrina

The United Nations is stepping up its aid to the United States in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina, with three UN teams already working with the Government on the ground while its specialized food, health and children's agencies are preparing to send in help through non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Working closely with the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), an initial UN presence has now been established in Atlanta and is moving to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, today with a staff of eight, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

The UN also has a presence in Denton, Texas, with six staff on the ground today. Both teams are working with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Regional Coordination Centres.

In addition, logistics staff are also at the Little Rock Air Force Base, the staging area for incoming international assistance. The UN is also liaising with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Response Management Team in Washington, D.C., and UN logisticians are helping to track international assistance with the OFDA team.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) have started talks with the American Red Cross about the possibility of eventually channelling materials and supplies through them. UNICEF is also providing education supplies to the Church World Service (CWS), an NGO.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is responding to requests for staff to assist in Baton Rouge, Denton, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UNICEF Senior Advisor on Child Protection Manuel Fontaine said the natural disaster has had a huge impact on children.

"They have lost their parents, they have lost loved ones, their houses, they have moved away so now they have to find a new place to go to school, they have to be able to function in a completely different set up and environment," he said.

But he also stressed children's natural ability, given the right kind of support, to bounce back from a disaster of this magnitude. "We know from experience from all regions of the world that children have an incredible capacity to recover and resilience to face these kinds of events and get better," he said.

"Most of them will not need very specialized medical assistance or therapy. The great majority are going to be able to recover from just getting involved in routine activities, getting back with their families, their siblings, re-socializing and being comforted and cared for," he added.