Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for an additional 3,500 United Nations troops and police officers to be deployed to Haiti, which was devastated last week by a catastrophic earthquake, to ensure that aid reaches the victims of the disaster as quickly as possible.
Mr. Ban, who yesterday visited the capital, Port-au-Prince, asked the Security Council today for an extra 1,500 police officers and 2,000 troops to reinforce the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, to augment its 9,000 uniformed personnel already on the ground.
The “heartbreaking” scenes he witnessed yesterday “compel us to act swiftly and generously,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.
“The Haitian people need to see that today is better than yesterday. They need to believe that the future will be better than the past.”
Following his day-long visit to Haiti, already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation before the disaster, the Secretary-General identified two main challenges.
First, he said, any bottlenecks in the aid operation must be resolved to ensure that the relief reaches people in need as quickly as possible.
The second and “most important” challenge is coordination of that effort, Mr. Ban noted.
MINUSTAH and others taking part in the operation have agreed on a clear division of responsibilities regarding the provision of security and humanitarian support, he said.
Surmounting these obstacles will require increasing the number of the mission’s personnel, the Secretary-General told the Council today.
UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said the additional military personnel are needed to escort humanitarian convoys, which are increasing daily; to secure humanitarian corridors that are being set up between Port-au-Prince and the Dominican Republic, as well as between Port-au-Prince and the northern ports of Haiti; and to constitute a reserve force “in case the situation unravels and security deteriorates.”
Meanwhile, the main tasks for the additional police officers will include securing the delivery of humanitarian aid at various distribution points, and augmenting the Haitian National Police.
The UN has already received a pledge for 800 troops from the Dominican Republic to secure the humanitarian corridor from Port-au-Prince to its eastern neighbour, Mr. Le Roy told a news conference, adding that more pledges are expected soon.
Following the meeting, the 15-member body expressed support for Mr. Ban’s proposal in a press statement read out by Ambassador Zhang Yesui of China, which holds the rotating presidency for January.
Haitians who Mr. Ban spoke to in Port-au-Prince told him clearly that “we need the UN, we need jobs, we need food and water,” he said.
Although he went to Haiti with a “very heavy heart,” the Secretary-General said he drew strength from the Haitian people’s remarkable calm and patience as they seek to overcome their difficulties.
The earthquake, one of the most serious natural disasters in decades, also represents the single biggest loss to the UN.
UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky announced today that 46 international personnel serving with the world body in Haiti have been confirmed dead.
They include Mr. Ban’s Special Representative to Haiti, Hédi Annabi, as well as his Deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa, and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“You have lost treasured colleagues and dear friends,” the Secretary-General told UN personnel yesterday in Port-au-Prince. “Yet you carry on…
“We do not have to create UN heroes. We have only to look around. There are many heroes. I am proud to serve with you.”
The Christopher Hotel, which housed the UN headquarters in Haiti, collapsed in the earthquake, while other buildings hosting the world body also suffered extensive damage. Mr. Nesirky said today that hundreds of personnel are still unaccounted for.
Search-and-rescue efforts continue, and Jens Kristensen, a staff member from Denmark, was pulled alive from the rubble of the Christopher Hotel yesterday. [Watch video]
In its statement today, the Security Council paid tribute to fallen UN staff members, expressing its gratitude for the “ongoing dedication” of personnel who “work tirelessly for peace and stab in Haiti,” Mr. Zhang, the body’s President, said today. Members of the 15-member body also expressed their condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.
Last week, the UN and its partners launched an appeal for nearly $600 million to help the victims of the earthquake, which has left basic services on the brink of collapse in Port-au-Prince.
The funds are intended to assist an estimated 3 million affected people over a period of six months, with half of the funds being earmarked for emergency food aid, with the rest targeted at health, water, sanitation, nutrition, early recovery, emergency education and other key needs.