DUBAI // A senior UN official stressed to Emirati aid groups here yesterday that countries such as Haiti, Yemen and Pakistan will need help for years to come. Rashid Khalikov, the director of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), delivered the comments following the meeting, which was held as part of the build-up to the UN's 2010 emergency appeal next month.
He said search-and-rescue efforts in Haiti might be over, but months and years of challenging rebuilding work lay ahead - work that is expected to run into the billions of dollars. Mr Khalikov, who noted the UAE committed generously to the initial disaster appeal for the quake-stricken Caribbean nation, said UN officials "had very useful meetings" with the UAE Red Crescent Authority, the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity, the Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation and the UAE Office for the Co-ordination of Foreign Aid.
"Everywhere we could see an eagerness to respond," he said. The UAE has sent more than 600 tonnes of aid to Haiti worth more than Dh12 million (US$3.27m) through various national charities, according to the UAE Office for the Co-ordination of Foreign Aid. Mr Khalikov said as media coverage of Haiti slowed, his focus was to engage UN member states in the rehabilitation of the impoverished communities left devastated by the 7-magnitude quake last month.
"It is not going to be over in a couple of weeks," he said. "It is very important that these organisations contributed a lot initially through the International Federation of the Red Cross, and in kind, but we have to be engaged, to continue to support. "It is for the Government of the UAE to decide how, and the Red Crescent to find the best way, but just do not think that it is over. It is not. The search-and-rescue stage is over but life-saving and the suffering is not."
Around 190,000 people are injured and need assistance in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, he said, and another one million people are displaced, around 10 per cent of the country's population. Mr Khalikov, who returns to New York today, praised the UAE's "innovative" Office for the Co-ordination of Foreign Aid and its multilateral efforts, saying it had demonstrated "solidarity" with the international community.
Discussions yesterday between the agency and leaders also centred around the urgent needs of Yemen, where an estimated 250,000 people are displaced due to hostilities in the north of the country, and those of Pakistan, where the UN's emergency appeal for 2010 is expected to total about US$600m (Dh2.2bn). "The requirements are very big in Pakistan," Mr Khalikov said. "When I visit Pakistan I always speak to the Emirates' diplomats there and I think it was appreciated because they got first-hand information. Now they are plugged in to what is happening there."
He said many of the displaced Pakistanis lived in the south of the country and in areas where, for secrurity reasons, the UN did not operate. The emergency appeal for Yemen is expected to total about $177m, he said. The UAE has been a member of the OCHA donor-support group since 2004. "As it is said often, we have to turn disaster into opportunity, which is a big challenge," Mr Khalikov said. "Being humanitarians we have to be very objective about the needs and very optimistic of meeting those needs, so we are hoping for a good response."