With Haiti facing the dual challenges of addressing the impact of Hurricane Matthew and restarting preparations for the holding of the much-anticipated elections, the United Nations envoy for the Caribbean country today expressed support for the recommended extension of the UN mission there by six months until mid-April 2017.
“I call on all of Haiti's international partners to continue to lend your support to the country to rapidly overcome the new challenges occasioned by the hurricane so that focus of all can be returned to strengthening the country's economic, physical and institutional infrastructure,” said Sandra Honoré, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Haiti, during a Security Council debate on the UN's mandate in the country.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is recommending that the UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) be extended for six months at the current force and police strength.
“This will allow MINUSTAH to support the Haitian authorities in their efforts to return to full constitutional order amidst the humanitarian crisis created by Hurricane Matthew,” said Ms. Honoré, who is also the head of MINUSTAH.
She noted that MINUSTAH's civilian and uniformed personnel and capacities are being put to full use in support of the humanitarian efforts, by opening up access to roads, providing airlift and supporting the Haitian National Police in securing humanitarian workers and stocks, among other tasks.
She went on to highlight that not only did Hurricane Matthew bring destruction to Haiti, it has also affected the country's political outlook, rendering impossible the holding on 9 October of the presidential elections repeated from last year, as well as the partial senatorial elections and legislative reruns.
The Provisional Electoral Council has postponed the elections, pending completion of an assessment of the hurricane's impact on the electoral process, she said. Preliminary reports indicate that at least 70 per cent of voting centres may have been affected in the South department, and even more in Grand'Anse, where many areas are still inaccessible, she added.
Prior to the disruption caused by the hurricane, which made landfall on 4 October, technical preparations had largely been on track for the holding of the elections, she said, noting that most political actors were committed to renewing the country's key democratic institutions through elections as a crucial first step toward Haiti's return to constitutional order, following the extended period of transitional governance.
“No political party had boycotted the process, and the large number of registered candidates and parties reflected a broad participation of actors across the political spectrum, setting the stage for an inclusive electoral process,” she said.
Haiti's ownership of electoral process is a promising sign for its future
The commitment shown by the Haitian authorities to own the electoral process, including financial and operational aspects, is a promising sign for the country's future, especially given the eventual drawdown of MINUSTAH, the Special Representative said.
She emphasized that while the Provisional Electoral Council is preparing to announce a new electoral calendar, it is important to find the right balance to maintain the momentum generated for elections and to take into account the technical and political considerations, while facing the largest humanitarian crisis that Haiti has known since 2010.
Despite the imperative need for all actors to focus on the emergency response, they cannot lose sight of the longer term challenges and priorities, such as strengthening the rule of law institutions and most notably the Haitian National Police, which has yet to become operationally independent to fully provide for security throughout the country, she stressed.
Work on the new five-year development strategy is reaching its final stages, determining objectives with respect to the required police-to-population ratio and identifying areas in which continuous specialized support is needed for further institutional and operational improvement of the national police, she said.
'This is a humanitarian tragedy and an acute emergency situation'
Detailing the damage brought by the storm, she reported that more than 2.1 million people are estimated to have been affected, with more than 1.4 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The Ministry of the Interior has confirmed 372 deaths, a figure that is likely to rise, while more than 60,000 people have been evacuated and remain in temporary shelters.
Though the full extent of the physical damage is still being assessed by the Government, “This is a humanitarian tragedy and an acute emergency situation,” she warned.
There are hundreds of suspected cholera cases, and we are already seeing the first deaths
The health impact of this disaster cannot be overestimated. “The absence of drinking water and the contamination by sewage of other available water, is causing a very high level of infections from diarrheal disease, including but not exclusively, cholera,” she said. “There are hundreds of suspected cholera cases, and we are already seeing the first deaths.”
Protecting vulnerable populations from cholera, and ensuring that the restoration, and in some cases the installation, of water and sanitation systems has to be one of the priorities for humanitarian action, she said.
Regarding a flash appeal for $120 million announced yesterday by the UN and partners, she called on all Member States to contribute urgently to the appeal, in support of the response being led by the Government to meet the needs of 750,000 people for the next three months.