International Herald Tribune
ReutersPublished: October 10, 2008
By Louis Charbonneau
Ignoring the plight of hurricane-ravaged Haiti and leaving its population hungry and angry could lead to a new wave of social unrest in the Caribbean country, the top U.N. envoy to Haiti said Friday.
Haiti was hit by four storms -- Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike -- in the space of about a month. The storms killed at least 800 people, including 520 in the hardest-hit city of Gonaives.
U.N. envoy Hedi Annabi told reporters the relief effort was beyond the financial resources of either Haiti or the United Nations and ignoring Haiti's plight could spark renewed unrest. Soaring food prices led to deadly riots earlier this year.
"A poor, angry and desperate population is not compatible with security and stability," Annabi said.
He said he was confident the U.N. Security Council would renew the mandate of the U.N. Haiti mission, known as MINUSTAH, for another year and that the vote could come next week.
Although he gave no specific figures for the amount of aid Haiti would need, he said hundreds of millions of dollars would be required to improve its drainage and sewage systems.
The recent flooding left behind vast amounts of mud, partly because 98 percent of Haiti's forests had been destroyed, allowing earth to be washed down from the hills.
Annabi said there must be large-scale reforestation combined with an alternative energy plan. Firewood is Haitians' principal source of energy.
Annabi said MINUSTAH was working with Haitian authorities to help the devastated city of Gonaives, which was coated with some three million cubic meters of mud that could turn rock hard. "It's as close as it comes to a hell on earth," he said.
He noted that the hurricane season was not over and Haiti could face further storms and flooding this year.
He acknowledged that it was difficult to ask wealthy donor countries to hand over more money for the poorest country in the western hemisphere at a time when global financial markets were struggling to ward off a total meltdown.
"I realise we are in a difficult environment," he said. However, he said it would not hurt the economies of developed countries to hand over more aid for Haiti.
Last month the World Food Program said it only had resources to help flood victims in Haiti through November.
(Editing by David Storey)