UAE extends aid expertise to Haiti

The UAE has sent food and medicine to Haiti's earthquake victims and the focus is now on helping its children.

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ABU DHABI // The UAE sent Haiti's earthquake survivors much needed food and medicine yesterday, and is co-ordinating with aid agencies to provide shelter and educational assistance to children displaced by the disaster. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, instructed his humanitarian foundation to send its first relief flight to the Caribbean nation. It is carrying 77 tonnes of food aid and medical supplies.

The aid will first land in the Dominican Republic, where the Khalifa bin Zayed Foundation will co-ordinate its delivery overland to neighbouring Haiti. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, also ordered his charity, Dubai Cares, to provide educational assistance to some of the more than one million primary school children affected by the quake 10 days ago. Tariq al Gurg, the chief executive of Dubai Cares, which aims to improve access to primary education in developing countries, confirmed that it would partner with other large international charities such as Save the Children, Unicef and Care International to help thousands of young quake victims continue to learn.

Anas Bukhash, the country programme manager for Dubai Cares, said the work was in its early stages. "Ever since the earthquake hit we have been talking to partners on the ground on a daily basis to see what kind of programmes we can implement straight away," he said. "As part of the immediate response we will be providing basic shelter for the children and clean water and sanitation so they can at least have a safe environment. We will follow this up with school supplies and eventually redevelopment of the school sites."

The most important thing, said Mr Bukhash, was to provide the children with some sense of a normal life. "The longer their lives are disrupted, the worse the disaster becomes. We want to get them back into temporary buildings, seeing their friends and their teachers so they can gain some sort of routine." Children and young people have been hard hit by the natural disaster. According to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 25 per cent of the quake victims who need help are young children.

Aid from Dubai Cares will also help those who were already out of school, the UN agency said. According to statistics, 50 per cent of Haiti's school-aged children were not enrolled prior to the earthquake.