UN: Six months on, 1.5 million Haitians still in camps

UN: Six months on, 1.5 million Haitians still in camps

At least 1.5 million people in Haiti remain stuck in temporary camps, the United Nations said Monday, six months after a devastating earthquake hit the impoverished nation, DPA reported.

The initial response of the UN aid agencies was to rush basic humanitarian help to the 3.5 million people affected by the quake, though now they were moving towards more long-term development programmes.

"We have moved to supporting the rebuilding of the country," said World Food Programme spokeswoman Emilia Casella.

"This is the time now, when we will be able to build a better Haiti for all the people there," Casella told reporters in Geneva.

The trick for the UN will be to continue to provide needed basic supplies, like food and water, while creating or enhancing the Haitian government's ability to function better than it did before January 12.

At the same time, for those people in what the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) called the "overcrowded displacement camps" life was hard and insecurity a major concern.

Long prior to the massive quake, Haiti suffered from deep poverty, crime and a severe lack of development. The UN ranked it the lowest country in the Americas on its Human Development Index, with over half the population lacking access to clean water, coupled with high unemployment and low wages.

When the quake struck, these pre-existing problems made the quake even more disastrous for the Haitian people, as an already poor education system lost its school buildings and a weak medical infrastructure saw hospitals across the country take heavy damage.

Paul Garwood, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said the health system was "under intense pressure" but with outside assistance was managing to function, and most notably prevented the spread of any major communicable diseases in the last half year.

Over 300,000 people were injured in the quake, including at least 4,000 that required amputations. Eight hospitals were destroyed and 22 were damaged, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The UN Environment Programme has also warned of overflowing garbage in the streets, sewage being diverted into rivers and massive deforestation.

The legacy issues, and the new ones created by the quake, were on the long list of matters Haiti would have to resolve over the coming years in the long process to an improved country

UN officials say that the massive amounts of donations pledged and the commitment of the government to rebuilding the country better than before were creating the apt conditions for a complete overhaul of Haiti.

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