UN makes desperate plea for Haitian relief

UN needs $187m following natural disaster, but fears the Caribbean nation is low on global agenda

The UN on Thursday appealed for $187 million to help more than 800,000 people in Haiti affected by this month’s devastating earthquake, saying that the tragedy-prone Caribbean nation has fallen low on the international agenda.

Ramesh Rajasingham, the UN’s deputy head of humanitarian emergencies, said Haiti’s earthquake recovery was being neglected amid headlines about Afghanistan and other global crises, and that an earlier funding appeal had barely attracted a third of its target.

The August 14 earthquake further damaged a crisis-prone nation by levelling schools, health clinics and the homes of some 60,000 families, said Mr Rajasingham — a situation likely to worsen as “we are just entering into the hurricane season”.

Mr Rajasingham spoke with reporters via video link from the capital Port-au-Prince at the end of his mission to visit quake-affected communities in Haiti's south-west.

Residents of the affected region were on Thursday still digging through the wreckage of twisted steel and concrete, using everything from heavy-duty earthmovers, where available, to their bare hands.

The 7.2-magnitude quake that struck on August 14 killed more than 2,200 people and levelled or wrecked tens of thousands of buildings in and around the south-western seafront town of Les Cayes, some 125 kilometres west of Port-au-Prince.

Within days, the same region was lashed and flooded by tropical storm Grace.

Haiti was already recovering from 2010’s devastating quake, the Covid-19 pandemic, economic woes aggravated by fierce gang violence and a political crisis following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, said Mr Rajasingham.

The Save the Children charity said on Thursday that young people whose parents or guardians perished in the quake were not receiving not the attention they needed and that some could fall prey to abusers or even human traffickers.

About a third of the 48 children’s homes in southern Haiti were damaged on August 14. Many of the estimated 1,700 who lived in them are now sleeping outside or are being hosted by foster families, the group said.

“More needs to be done urgently to keep them safe,” said the group’s director in Haiti, Perpetue Vendredi.

“Hundreds of children were taken illegally out of the country after the 2010 earthquake by western organisations. That cannot happen again.”

Updated: August 26th 2021, 6:02 PM