Wellington, 18 January 2010. – Essential emergency supplies are flowing more freely to the quake-affected population in Haiti, but the aid effort continues to face challenges.
Two planes loaded with UNICEF supplies such as tents, tarpaulins and medicines have already touched down in Port-au-Prince, with further flights being routed through the Dominican Republic.
Water continues to be a priority, with UNICEF providing 5,000 individual water bags and contributing to the distribution of hundreds of thousands of litres of water from tanks set up around the capital.
UNICEF NZ Executive Director, Dennis McKinlay, says that there are still bottlenecks, but aid has been flowing more smoothly and getting to people more easily.
“Major bottlenecks include the airport – which can only take 18 aircraft at a time – the heavily damaged civil infrastructure and networks, and lack of government functionality. UNICEF also usually works with implementing partners on the ground, but they have been severely affected by the earthquake.
“Every free space in the city has been taken over for temporary accommodation, and is filled with tents and people. It’s incredibly crowded.
“There are also a lot of people moving around the streets and crowding distribution points. This can be very dangerous for both the aid workers and the people themselves who can trample over each other in the rush. We’ve got several million people who are trying to get food and water, and they are quite desperate as you can imagine.”
“Haiti was already the poorest country in the western hemisphere and had very little of anything. Making what is left after the earthquake operational is a very difficult task that is going to take time.”
“We are particularly concerned about the impact of the earthquake on children, who are always the most vulnerable after a disaster. Apart from their immediate needs for water, food and shelter, there is also an absolute need to protect children, reunite lost children with family, help them to recover from the trauma, and get them back to school.”
UNICEF is co-ordinating relief efforts with other UN agencies, governments and aid groups in order to help as many people as possible in the most effective way.
“UNICEF has been active in Haiti since 1949 and is in for the long-haul.”
People can donate to UNICEF NZ's Haiti Emergency Appeal on 0800 800 194 or donate online.