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Haiti: UN pledges to help Government improve security in 2008

Haiti: UN pledges to help Government improve security in 2008

Hédi Annabi, Special  Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti will continue to help the Government to improve border security in 2008, the Organization’s top official in the Caribbean nation has pledged.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Hedi Annabi told a news conference yesterday in the capital, Port-au-Prince, that UN peacekeepers are already deploying at the four main points of entry into Haiti, will soon patrol the seaports and, at a later stage, also deploy a maritime unit.

The mission, known as MINUSTAH and set up in set up in 2004 to help re-establish peace after an insurgency forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile, will also continue in improving state administration and reforming the judicial sector of the impoverished country.

Mr. Annabi called for an effective partnership between Haitians, MINUSTAH and the international financial community to make concrete progress in all fields.

“It must be recognized that, whatever its good intentions, MINUSTAH has neither the mandate nor the necessary resources to solve the fundamental problems posed by the creation of jobs, provision of food, health and education, and more generally improving the standard of living of the population,” he said. “That solution depends on an increase in investments and re-launching the economy.”

Meanwhile, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has just completed a working visit to Haiti, during which she met with UN and Haitian authorities to discuss conditions for children and possible areas of strengthened cooperation.

“Haiti is a country that has so much poverty, and it’s a country where you find it very difficult to believe that you’re only a three-hour plane ride from New York,” she said of her first visit as agency chief.

“Only 50 per cent of the primary-age children are in primary school. Forty per cent of the children are not getting regular vaccinations for childhood diseases. And there are many, many protection issues in this country, from violence against children to sexual violence to trafficking, to a whole range of other issues.

“And so, this is a country in which children need health, they need education, they need protection. And UNICEF is working in all three of those areas, to try to make a difference in the lives of the children.”

During her stay, Ms. Veneman visited more than a half dozen programmes that receive UNICEF support, including Lakay-Lakou project, which includes a shelter for street children, who are especially vulnerable to violence and abuse. More than 375 boys and girls come here to receive basic services such as food, health and education.

Another stop was the Choscal hospital, which treats more than 3,000 children for malnutrition every month. UNICEF has supported the centre since 2005 as part of its ongoing commitment to improving access to basic health services for children and women, especially children under the age of five and pregnant women.

Ms. Veneman toured a programme managed by AVSI, a UNICEF partner that gives psychosocial support to children affected by armed violence – an all-too-common reality for children living in Cité Soleil, one of the Haitian capital’s most dangerous areas.

She also visited programmes for children and women affected by HIV and AIDS. Thousands of children are living with HIV in Haiti, a situation further complicated by the fact that almost half a million young people under 18 have lost one or both parents, many of them to AIDS.