Haiti logistics improved; fuel through Dominican; 49 UN deaths

Haiti logistics improved; fuel through Dominican; 49 UN deaths

The logistical nightmare encountered by relief groups and the United Nations after the earthquake struck a week ago has begun to ease off in Haiti, the top UN humanitarian coordinator said Wednesday, dpa reported.

John Holmes said the Port-au-Prince international airport, which is under US control, is working "increasingly well" with relief flights given landing rights at designated slots on the tarmac.

The government of Haiti has released more fuel, and the much needed commodity was coming through the Dominican Republic, which has become a staging area for unloading humanitarian supplies and equipment provided by the international community before they are being trucked to Haiti.

The UN said the main road from Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince serves as the corridor for transporting humanitarian assistance to the Haitians. But the traffic is slow and congested by the number of vehicles, which also transport Haitians and other people wanting to leave Haiti.

The Dominican Republic has agreed to provide 800 military troops to patrol the road to Port-au-Prince, but apparently their presence was objected to by Haitian authorities.

Holmes admitted there was some "sensitivity" in the issue of Dominican military in Haiti.

Food rations are being distributed to up to half a million Haitians by the World Food Programme, Holmes said.

The cooperation between the UN and the United States, both at headquarters and in the field, is "going well" while the troops from the UN Stabilization Mission Haiti (MINUSTAH) have begun escorting food convoys in quake-affected areas, he said.

Some 3 million Haitians are affected by the magnitude-7 earthquake that struck a week ago, 2 million of them will be relying on food aid for the next six months.

"It's a long way to go, but that effort (of feeding people) is being ramped up with increasing speed and scale," Holmes said.

He said with the cooperation and coordination among organizations and countries providing assistance to Haiti, the logistical problems have begun to turn the corner.

Holmes was seeking 550 million dollars last week to meet humanitarian demands in Haiti and he said up to 30 per cent of the requests have been met. In addition, both official and private sector's donations were also pouring into the Caribbean nation, the poorest in the western hemisphere.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Wednesday the death toll of UN personnel in Haiti stood at 49 killed and more than 300 of them are still unaccounted for, down from 500 on Monday.

Nesirky said the number of unaccounted is expected to drop as the telephone network improves on a daily basis, which would permit the UN to check the whereabouts of its employees, particularly Haitians.

The UN said international search and rescue teams have been able to pull a total of 121 people from the rubble in the past week, a feat described by Holmes as "extraordinary."

Holmes said the 121 survivors were helped by foreign teams, but there have been more people saved by the Haitians themselves.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) said about 1,100 Haitians will be on UN payroll by week's end as part of the cash-for-work programme launched to jump start Haiti's local economy.

Those Haitians will be paid 5 dollars a day for work that includes the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid, digging for survivors, doing street repairs and electrical work.

"Time is of the essence in getting early recovery after a major disaster," said UNDP administrator Helen Clark in New York, who just returned from Haiti.

"We need donor support to help get people back to work without delay," she said. "This will accelerate early recovery and prepare for the longer term rebuilding when it takes place."

UNDP has appealed for 35.6 million dollars for its initiatives to help Haitians recover from the earthquake, which is a part of the overall 550 million dollars being sought by the UN for Haiti.

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