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UN expert urges more aid for Hurricane Matthew victims

13 March 2017 – An independent United Nations expert on human rights today welcomed the recent completion of the electoral process as “remarkable progress” for the island nation, while he also urged the authorities to address the situation in prisons, and redouble efforts to help Haitians affected by Hurricane Matthew and the 2010 earthquake.

Following his eight official mission, Gustavo Gallón, the Independent Expert praised “the transparency, professionalism and commitment of the Provisional Electoral Council, and the provisional government authorities in leading the elections.”

Even though not enough, the Independent Expert has noted the election of a female senator as well as three female parliamentarians to the lower Chamber. He also invited the authorities to intensify their efforts in continuing to promote the political participation of women.

He went on to say that detention conditions in Haitian prisons are extremely inhuman, cruel and degrading, according to the Independent Expert. Long pre-trial detention, which amounts to an average of 70 per cent at national level, is among the main causes of prison overcrowding, which reaches a rate of 358 per cent, equivalent to 1.43 square meters per prisoner.

There are prisons where the situation is even worse, according to a study conducted in 2016 of the National. “It can be said that 91 per cent of all detainees in this prison who are awaiting trial are illegally or arbitrarily detained, which represents an increase of 23 per cent since 2014,” Mr. Gallón explained, adding that the excessive level of overcrowding is also a factor, among others, that contributes to the high level of death in prison.

read more “If the current trend continues, projections for the year 2017 can result in the death of 229 prisoners, an annual mortality rate of 21.8 per 1,000," he said. Taking note of the establishment of a new Presidential Commission to assess the situation in prisons, he made an appeal to the authorities to implement urgent actions aimed at the abolition of prolonged pre-trial detention in order to improve prison conditions and to respect the rights of people deprived of their liberty.

The Independent Expert also called for efforts to continue to deal with the issue of people displaced following the 2010 earthquake, Hurricane Matthew last year, and the expulsions of Haitians from the Dominican Republic. “The dialogue between the Haitian authorities and their Dominican counterparts should be strengthened to ensure the rights to nationality and identity of Haitian people and their descendants,” he said.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
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Haiti: UN’s new approach on cholera puts people at heart of the response

30 November 2016 – The response to cholera in Haiti will be a “long and thorough battle,” but the United Nations will stand by the Haitian people and authorities, Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, on the eve of the launch of the Organization's new approach to tackling the epidemic in the country.

The new approach was announced last August and will be launched by Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, 1 December. It includes rapid interventions in areas where cases are reported and the prevention of future high-risk public health crises.

The new approach on cholera also focuses on people and proposes the establishment of a program of material assistance and support to Haitians directly affected by the disease.

“This is an approach that goes to the root of the problem with long-term investments in the sanitation facilities that the country needs to eradicate cholera; short-term investments to halt the progression of cholera; and, most importantly, putting people and communities affected by cholera at the heart of our efforts,” Mr. Dujarric said in an interview with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) FM Radio.

“The United Nations must listen to the Haitian people, must listen to the communities that have been affected by this disease,” he stated, adding that consultations with communities will be of great importance. “Only communities will be able to explain what they need and how we can help them.”

The new strategy will also include an individual approach, the Spokesman continued. It will require a precise identification of the victims of cholera and their family members, and a funding threshold to establish “a lump sum for each death” due to cholera, but he warned that this part of the strategy “will take much longer.”

“We know very well, and the Secretary-General knows very well, that the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the people most affected by the cholera epidemic. We regret the terrible suffering endured by the Haitian people as a result of the epidemic,” said Mr. Dujarric.

According to UN estimates, the programme is expected to cost about $400 million over the next two years. “It is not an insurmountable sum, and the Secretary-General is very hopeful that the General Assembly and the international community will show solidarity and will be there to help Haiti at a time when aid is needed,” the Spokesperson said.

“The most important in the long term is a sustained investment in the health network in Haiti to ensure that water distribution is at a level where water saves and feeds and water no longer poisons as we have seen with cholera,” he concluded.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti began in October 2010. It has affected an estimated 788,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,200. Concerted national and international efforts since then have resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the number of suspected cases. This number remains high, however, and recent outbreaks show the continued vulnerability of the population to the disease, which is preventable and treatable.

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One month after Hurricane Matthew, needs in Haiti remain ‘vast,’ UN reports

4 November 2016 – As Haiti struggles to recover from the massive destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew, which pummelled the tiny island one month ago today, the United Nations warned that while its seems as if “the world has moved on,” Haiti’s needs are vast, exemplified by the nearly 600,000 children being stalked by disease, hunger and malnutrition and in need of assistance.

“One month after the hurricane, life for more than half a million children in Haiti is still far from back to normal,” said Marc Vincent, Haiti Representative for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a news release. “Too many children are still homeless, hungry, out of school and in danger. We are scaling up our response and are determined to help as many of them as possible as fast as we can.”

UNICEF said there have been at least 1,000 suspected cholera cases among children in the past month. Out of 219 cholera treatment centres in the country, 18 have been damaged in the worst-hit departments of Grand’Anse and South, further complicating efforts to contain the disease.

11 04 2016HealthCentre

The total destruction the Category 4 storm inflicted on crops, food stock and livestock in some of the worst affected areas have left over 800,000 people in need of immediate food assistance and more than 112,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition.

An estimated 50,000 children have been left homeless and are staying in temporary shelters. Another 3,500 children living in institutions need help accessing nutrition, water and sanitation services.

Up to 80 per cent of hospitals and health centres in Grand’Anse have lost their roofs. An additional seven health centres in Grand’Anse, four in South and three in Nippes are no longer operational.

More than 700 schools have been affected and about 86 schools have been used as temporary shelters, causing school disruption for at least 150,000 children.

UNICEF is working with national and other partners to provide basic assistance to the most vulnerable children. They are providing 100,000 people a day with safe water, organizing a cholera vaccination campaign that will be launched next week to immunize up to 900,000 people, and providing cholera prevention kits that contain water purification tablets, soap and oral rehydration salts. Between 100 and 200 kits are distributed every day.

In addition, they are delivering an integrated package of services to prevent and treat malnutrition among children under five as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers living in the hurricane affected areas, replenishing vaccines and restoring the cold chain so that routine immunization can resume in the health centres that are still operational and in mobile clinics, and distributing emergency medical supplies to 18 health centres.

Joint actions also include setting up mobile child friendly spaces where vulnerable children and families can receive psychosocial support, and training 60 volunteers to staff them, and repairing 22 schools and distributing school-in-a-box and early childhood development kits so that children can resume their learning as soon as possible.

UNICEF requires over $23 million through the end of the year to meet children’s humanitarian needs following the hurricane, including for the cholera response. So far, it has received a mere $6 million.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters in Geneva that, according to the latest figures from the authorities in Haiti, Matthew has so far caused 546 deaths and left 438 people injured.

He said that needs are vast, especially in the areas of quality water, education, shelter, child protection, health and nutrition. A total of 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and an estimated 40 per cent of them are children. The UN emergency humanitarian appeal for $120 million is far only 33 per cent funded.

Haiti needs support to restore, rebuild health services

Haiti needs support to restore and rebuild its health services at various levels, ranging from cholera treatment centers to community health centers to major hospitals, according to Dr. Jean-Luc Poncelet, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) representative in Haiti.

In the country’s South, “the government faces challenges in restoring health facilities in affected areas and urgent repairs to restore functionality have been identified,” he said.

In Sud Department, 28 per cent of health facilities sustained severe damage and eight per cent are closed, while in Grand’Anse, 43 per cent of health facilities were severely damaged and seven per cent are closed. Of the 74 cholera and acute diarrhea treatment facilities in Haiti, 34 are fully functional, while 40 sustained various levels of damage.

11 04 2016Haiti

Restoring health services to a functional level requires not only fixing structures, but providing electricity and water and sanitation, as well as helping many health workers who themselves have been severely affected by the hurricane’s destruction, according to the Haiti Ministry of Public Health.

“The major needs are to renovate existing health structures with durable repairs, to increase humanitarian assistance to rural areas, and to improve water quality and sanitation,” Mr. Poncelet said.

The latest figures from the Haitian government show that 175,509 Haitians are still living in shelters, while more than 1.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

PAHO/WHO teams identified five priority areas of action for the health sector, estimating that $9 million in emergency funding is needed to carry out essential activities.

These priorities are: restoration of health care delivery capacity and access to health services in the most affected areas; increased epidemiological surveillance to support early detection and timely management of disease outbreaks; intensification of vector-control and protective environmental health measures in impacted areas; rapid and effective response to cholera outbreaks in affected communities; and support for efficient coordination of humanitarian assistance and management of information to effectively address the most urgent humanitarian needs.

A vaccination campaign is planned to start Nov. 8, targeting 820,000 people in 16 communes affected by Hurricane Matthew and that have reported cholera cases or deaths. To prevent additional cholera cases, which are likely to increase in the rainy season from now until December, it is also important to advance on water purification, health promotion, and sanitation at the same time.

Bettina Luescher, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that the agency has delivered food to 400,000 people, as part of its work to support the Government in its work. The situation is dire on the ground, with huge logistical challenges, but together with its partners WFP has reached people by truck, helicopter and boat.

Some 140,000 people are still displaced and living in temporary shelters. The food situation is worrisome: in areas hit by the hurricane crops have been destroyed, along with livestock and seeds, local markets are running out of food and the prices of imported goods are rising.

The planting season is supposed to happen this month and will be affected, which meant in turn that the next harvest, in the early months of 2017 will be affected. WFP aims to reach 800,000 people. In order to do that, it has appealed for $58 million overall and still needs $40 million urgently.

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UN appeals for $120 million to launch ‘massive response’ in storm-ravaged Haiti

(photo: several hundered people who have lost their homes shelter in a neighbourhood high school. UNICEF has installed a water bladder on the grounds of the school. credit: UNICEF/Roger LeMoyne)

10 October 2016 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the launch of a near $120 million appeal to fund United Nations aid activities in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, where the rising death toll coupled with the start of the rainy season has prompted the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to sound the alarm on the threat of waterborne diseases to children living in the worst-affected areas.

“Hundreds have died. At least 1.4 million people need assistance at this time. Some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map. Crops and food reserves have been destroyed. At least 300 schools have been damaged, Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters today, express his deepest condolences and sympathies to those affected by the hurricane.

He said the numbers of those impacted and the needs are growing as more affected areas are reached. Moreover, tensions are already mounting as people await help. “A massive response is required,” he said, adding that UN teams are working with local officials to assess needs.

10 10 haiti appeal

“Today in Geneva, we launched a $120 million flash appeal covering the UN system’s needs for the next three months,” the Secretary-General announced, recalling that this past Friday, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERFallocated $5 million in emergency funds to kick-start assistance in the wake of the deadly storm, following the release earlier in the week of a loan of $8 million dollars to the UNICEF to scale up response to the worsening cholera epidemic in Haiti.

The so-called Flash Appeal, launched by the UN on behalf of the international humanitarian community, requests $119,850 to respond to “the most urgent needs” of people impacted by the storm, which made landfall in Haiti on 4 October and went on to leave a swath of devastation throughout the Caribbean and the South-eastern United States.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the appeal targetsvulnerable groups in identified priority sectors, and it takes into account the national-level capacities and those of humanitarian partners on the ground. Over the next week, partners will develop individual projects in support of sector activities and financial requirements identified in this appeal, adapting the response to the most up-to-date assessment results.

In a separate statement today, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien stressed that funding of the appeal is urgently needed to enable humanitarian actors to respond to people most in need before the situation further deteriorates, including by addressing the risks posed by cholera and other deadly waterborne diseases.

“Families that were fortunate to survive the hurricane now find themselves in a struggle to survive, with thousands of homes and livelihoods washed away by the storm,” he said, recalling that the country was already facing health challenges, including an increase in cases of cholera as well as severe food insecurity, before the hurricane hit.

‘We are in a race against time,’ warns UNICEF, fearing rapid spread of diseases

Mr. Ban went on to note that he is developing a new approach to the cholera situation, which will encompass support for people affected by the disease and for efforts to build sound water, sanitation and health systems in order to help eliminate cholera in Haiti. This disaster makes it even more vital to significantly step up our support and to do so right now, he stressed.

“The United Nations is mobilizing across all fronts to support the people, the Government and local groups such as the Red Cross in getting recovery under way as quickly as possible. I call on the international community to show solidarity and generosity – and to work together effectively in responding to this emergency,” stated the Secretary-General.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has warned that overflowing rivers, stagnant waters, and animal and human corpses are perfect breeding grounds for waterborne diseases. “Every day that goes by increases the threat of cholera. We are in a race against time to get to these children before diseases do,” Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative for Haiti, said in a press statement.

Even before the hurricane in Haiti, UNICEF noted that only one in three people had access to proper latrines and less than three in five to safe water. In rural areas, these rates go down to one in four for sanitation and one in two for water. Diarrhoea is one of the main killers of children under-five in the country.

“Haiti has one of the highest incidence rates of cholera in the world,” underscored Mr. Vincent. “Almost 10,000 people have died from the disease since 2010 and more than 27,000 suspected cases have been reported so far this year, an estimated one in three of them children,” he added.

10 10 haiti hurricane

Since the 2010 outbreak, UNICEF, in partnership with the Haitian government and various partners, has been fighting waterborne diseases – including cholera – by improving access to water, sanitation and health services for Haitian children and their families, while promoting rapid response to cholera cases.

From that time until now, UNICEF has established or maintained 1,270 oral rehydration points and 149 cholera treatment units in high-risk areas where nearly 140,000 suspected cases were treated. In June and July of this year alone, the agency responded to more than 1,000 cholera alerts in all 10 departments of the country, benefiting about 8,000 households.

“With the hurricane’s devastating impact on an already fragile system, UNICEF will continue to scale up its cholera response and address the emerging water and sanitation needs,” vowed Mr. Vincent, noting that key components of UNICEF’s immediate response include acquiring water purification tablets, treating collective water sources, and setting up latrines in temporary shelters and informal settlements.

The western cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie suffered the full force the Category 4 hurricane – sustaining heavy rains, winds and water damage across wide areas.

In the midst of the crisis, pregnant women are also among some of the most vulnerable, the UN says.

According to the UN Population Fund (UNPFA), some 8,400 women are expected to give birth in the next three months and another 1,200 could need Caesarean sections. These numbers are in addition to at least 280,000 women of childbearing age in the affected areas who will need quality health services in the coming months. To help respond to this urgency, the UN agency is sending 252 emergency reproductive health kits that will provide equipment, medicines and supplies for safe deliveries, voluntary family planning, rape treatment and other services for 450,000 people for the next three months.

 

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UN emergency teams ‘on the ground’ in the Caribbean to help respond to Hurricane Matthew

5 October 2016 – In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean region, United Nations emergency response teams have been deployed to Haiti and Jamaica to coordinate rapid assessments and support disaster response.

According to a statement issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, though the full extent of the impact remains unclear, the Haitian Government has reported that a number of lives have been lost and at least 350,000 people need immediate assistance.

The statement also noted that the UN is in contact with the authorities across the region and stands ready to assist with response and recovery if required.

Also today at a regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, a UN spokesperson toldjournalists that the entire southern part of the country, including capital Port-au-Prince have been affected and the south-east tip of the island suffered the brunt of the hurricane. A main bridge connecting the capital to the south was also swept away this afternoon cutting off access.

The teams have been deployed from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), which is managed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On the ground, they are logistically supported by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

UNDAC is part of the international emergency response system for acute emergencies. It was created in 1993 to help the UN and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency.

Further, in the statement from his office, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his solidarity with the people and Governments of Haiti, Cuba and other countries in the hurricane affected region.

It added said that the UN chief lauded the preparedness efforts of the Cuban authorities, media, and civil society to protect people's lives and economic assets.

In Cuba, more than 377,000 people were evacuated, 1,640 metric tonnes of food was pre-positioned in safe areas, and measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure threatened by strong winds, rains, storm surge and floods.

In a separate statement today, President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson also expressed deep concern for the people of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean as they struggle to cope with the effects of the hurricane and offered his condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives as a result of the storm.

“As a Fijian who has witnessed first hand the power and devastation of such destructive tropical cyclones, I fully empathise with those facing up to the damage,” he said, adding: “The world must stand with the victims at this time as people of goodwill everywhere recognise their suffering and stand ready to offer a helping hand.”

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