UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Haiti, Joël Boutroue
UN org / 15 October 2008 – A senior United Nations official to Haiti today pleaded with international donors to provide urgently needed resources to help with emergency relief and recovery efforts in the impoverished country, which was recently ravaged by a series of hurricanes.
Although the situation in Haiti has temporarily stabilized, it is still the middle of the hurricane season and if other storms hit the country, he did not know how the world body would be able to respond, the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Haiti, Joël Boutroue, told the press.
He said that until now the UN agencies had been able to distribute food, water and non-food items on a regular basis throughout the country, including remote areas, despite the major destruction to roads and bridges causing significant logistical difficulties to the emergency relief effort.
However, some 3 million Haitians are food insecure because of the combined impact of the four successive hurricanes, which battered the Caribbean nation from mid-August to mid-September, and the global food and fuel price crisis, Mr. Boutroue told reporters.
Haiti, which was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, is back to where it was three or four years ago in terms of economic growth and poverty, he added.
“This means that we will need substantial additional resources if we want to be able to make a difference in the short to medium term,” he said at a press briefing at UN headquarters in New York.
Mr. Boutroue reported that the UN does not have the capacity, without further contributions, to provide water and sanitation in their emergency shelters or to the general population whose water system has been destroyed.
“We are concerned because response has been generally OK to this date, but we do not have sufficient resources to continue food distribution at the required level. If we don’t deliver tangible results now, I frankly don’t know how they will survive.”
He explained that the Haiti has suffered almost complete deforestation because 80 per cent of the population was dependent on charcoal as its energy fuel, and the small nation needed much more investment in the environment to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters and to provide labour-intensive work to buoy the economy.
“Haiti is totally deforested. There is no investment worth mentioning. There is no industry worth mentioning and there is very low [agricultural] productivity due to soil erosion.”
Investment is needed in food security, basic services and watershed management, protecting the country’s mountain slopes with terracing, dykes and walls for future reforestation.
“If we don’t invest in the short and medium term, we’ll have additional hardship, deepening poverty and we will enter a vicious circle of instability, unrest, insecurity,” Mr. Boutroue said.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) today announced the return of its watershed management programme in Gonaïves, the city hardest hit by the recent earthquakes, employing some 7500 people and providing rare job opportunities to a population whose livelihoods were destroyed.
The labour-intensive programme serves the dual purpose of offering income for families and reducing the threat from future climate related disasters.
“Employment is the key pre-condition for social stability,” said Jean Marie Vander Wouwer, an adviser for the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), which, along with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and support from France and Japan, is helping to implement the watershed project.
“With donor support, we’re immediately ready to scale-up the programme by another 2500 people,” Mr. Wouwer stated.
UNDP plans to implement programmes that will provide employment for up to 400,000 people. Its long-term aim is to provide stability through employment creation, according to its press release issued today.