UN: Haiti has 'long way to go' in post-quake recovery

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With the emergency search and rescue phase winding down in quake-hit Haiti, issues of sanitation, hygiene and shelter top the list of priorities in the new phase, top UN humanitarian official said here Tuesday.

For Haiti, there is a still a "very long way to go to get to all the people in need," John Holmes said here at UN Headquarters. "We have a lot to do yet."

Noting that while there is no current sign of any epidemic, sanitation and hygiene need to be urgently addressed to prevent any threat of disease, he said.

He noted that shelter was another priority where "better rudimentary shelters" need to be created as "quickly as possible" in a systematic way.

The UN intends to enact a better assessment that evaluates the specific needs of Haitians where Holmes noted that many people had left Port-au-Prince and had relocated to different communities.

It is important to find out what their needs are in their new locations, Holmes said.

Search-and-rescue efforts were winding down from the peak activity that had seen 67 teams, almost 2,000 people, involved, he said.

The United Nations death toll stood at 82 and the number unaccounted for had come down recently to 45, he said, expressing hope it would come down further still.

Most people, he said, now had access to clean water, but many still did not have enough and intensive activity was being carried out on that front.

The World Food Program said that 10 million meals had been served, but many people did not yet have access, and all actors were stepping up efforts to provide millions more ready-to-eat meals in the weeks ahead.

He said that a priority in employment and stability was fully funding the Cash-for-Work program launched by the UN Development Program (UNDP), which now only had 5,000 participants, but planned to engage 10,000 people by this weekend.

The UNDP has launched the program to provide Haitians with an independent source of income - 5 U.S. dollars a day - in return for such work as rubble removal, street repairs and aid distribution.

By the end of this week, UNDP hopes that 10,000 people will be involved in the scheme, which is ultimately scaled up to include 220,000 people, indirectly benefiting 1 million others.

Holmes pointed out that the availability of medical supplies remained a problem, even as emergency health operations started to slow down.

"There is an issue of where people are going to recover from their injuries," especially given the large number of amputees, he said.

Shelter remains a major priority, he stressed.

Haitian President Rene Preval has estimated that 200,000 family-sized tents may be needed to shelter those made homeless from the quake, and the UN official said that talks were under way to determine what kinds of camps might be set up there.

Currently, there are 40,000 tents already in Haiti, but many more are needed, with some 800,000 to 1 million people already having organized themselves into temporary shelters.

The UN flash appeal of 575 million dollars for Haiti launched on Jan. 15, three days after the quake, is only 49 percent funded, Holmes announced, expressing concern that certain crucial sectors, including early recovery, remain underfunded.

Holmes, who has just returned from an international conference on Haiti in Montreal, said that the emphasis of the meeting had been on the empowerment of Haitians, employment to get cash into people's pockets and planning for next stage of reconstruction and redevelopment.

A roadmap for rebuilding Haiti was endorsed Monday by major donor countries and regional and multilateral partners in Montreal, Canada.

"It was a good meeting ... wide agreement amongst all concerned," Holmes said. "The focus is on planning for next stage ... the reconstruction, the redevelopment."

He said that there was agreement by all concerned on a process needed to lead up to a proposed donor conference late in March, to be hosted by the United States in New York.

High-level officials from the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Japan, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Mexico, as well as those from the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community attended the conference.

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