The United Nations is working to support rescue and relief efforts in Haiti following a powerful earthquake that reportedly left hundreds dead, with perhaps even more injured and missing, and caused massive damage in the south-western part of the country.
UN chief António Guterres said that he is closely following the latest unfolding tragedy in Haiti, while UNICEF reported that its teams already on the ground are making assessments to prioritize urgent needs and provide assistance to affected populations in the wake of the 7.2 magnitude quake that has reportedly killed more than 1000 people.
“My heart goes out to all affected by the earthquake. My deepest condolences to all who have lost family and friends,” the Secretary-General said on Twitter.
Later in a statement issued by his Spokesperson, Mr. Guterres said that the United Nations, together with the humanitarian community in Haiti, is supporting the Government’s efforts to assist those affected by the earthquake and stands ready to provide further backing to the response.
Displaced children, families may be in urgent need
In a statement, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said the quake was felt in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, but the epicenter was detected in the southern parts of the country.
Serious damage, injuries and casualties are reported in the Grande Anse, Sud and Sud-Est department, said UNICEF.
According to news reports, the latest earthquake, similar in magnitude to the 2010 quake that devastated the country and left hundreds of thousands of people dead and displaced, has toppled churches and schools, and severely curtailed electricity in the affected areas.
“We are deeply saddened by the reports of casualties and heavy damage following the earthquake earlier today in Haiti,” saidBruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in the country, who added that the agency stands in solidarity with families and children in the wake of the disaster.
He noted that UNICEF is working with Government and non-government partners to provide support to affected communities, with the agency warning that children and families may have been displaced as a result of the earthquake and could be in urgent need of shelter, clean water, medical care and protection.
Saying on Twitter that she was deeply saddened by the unfolding tragedy, UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore reiterated that: “Today and in the coming days, UNICEF will be working closely with our partners to reach affected children and families.”
The earthquake struck as a tropical storm bares down on the Caribbean region and with Haiti itself facing a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and still coping with the assassination last month of President Jovenel Moise.
Delivering in solidarity
“Our thoughts are with the people of Haiti following the devastating earthquake, said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in a Twitter post where she also stressed that the Organization “is committed to delivering in solidarity with you.”
Separately, Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the UN Economic and Social Council said the “people of Haiti are in our thoughts at this difficult time.” He added that the Council’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, will keep working to promote the long-term development of the country, referring to the body created to provide advice and promote socioeconomic recovery, reconstruction and stability in the country.
The latest updates from OCHA
UN agencies and partners are mobilizing resources and personnel and supporting the Government of Haiti with assessments and relief response. On 15 August, Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths allocated US$8 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to support the humanitarian response. The allocation will provide essentials such as health care, clean water, emergency shelter and sanitation for people affected by the disaster.
Access to the southern peninsula is challenging due to gangs controlling movements. Local authorities are negotiating access, and an initial convoy of six vehicles with staff from UN agencies and the Government travelled to the affected area on Sunday. Further convoys carrying supplies will follow.
Staff from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams are also arriving in the country to support coordination and assessments.
As of yesterday 15 August, the death toll had risen to 1,297 killed and more than 5,700 injured, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Department.
The health system in affected areas is being overwhelmed, as health workers are assisting the injured while also contending with the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of COVID-19 patients is expected to increase in the coming days and weeks.
While assessments are still in their early stages, more than 13,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 13,000 have sustained damages. These figures are likely to increase significantly in the coming hours.
The latest earthquake, similar in magnitude to the quake that devastated the country in 2010 and left hundreds of thousands of people dead and displaced, has toppled churches and schools, and severely curtailed electricity in the affected areas.
Tropical Storm Grace is expected to pass over Haiti on 17 August, bringing heavy rainfall that could lead to flash floods and mudslides.
"You are not alone"
As relief convoys reached affected communities in Les Cayes, Jérémie and Nippes, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, issued a statement on 17 August commiting to "scale up our response to the hardest-hit areas even as Tropical Storm Grace approaches Haiti with its threat of heavy rainfall and flash floods." He also called on all Member States to mobilize efforts to support Haiti in averting a humanitarian disaster.
To the people of Haiti he said: "you are not alone. We will stand by your side and support you every step of the way out of this crisis."
For updated information on the emergency and how to help, visit the site of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)