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International Community Moves to Help Quake-stricken Haiti

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The international community has mobilized to send aid and rescue teams to Haiti in the aftermath of the magnitude-7.3 earthquake that devastated the Carribean country Tuesday.

Up to 40 rescue teams have registered for the relief effort and many countries have offered funds and materials.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday in a telephone conversation with Haitian President Rene Preval that all relevant UN agencies had moved to deploy rescue work and the World Food Program (WFP) had been distributing food to Haitian people affected by the quake.

Speaking from New York, Ban said the international body had launched an urgent appeal for US$550 million.

Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said among the 40 rescue teams registered at the On-Site Operations Coordination Center (OSOCC), 17 had started their mission in Haiti while six were going to arrive there soon.

She added the OCHA had opened a special aerial route between the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo and the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to speed the delivery of aid.

Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said Friday the FAO would coordinate with the international community on the rescue and reconstruction work.

The Rome-based agency would also play its role in the rehabilitation and reconstruction work over the next weeks and months, Diouf said in a statement.

He added the agency would continue assisting with food production in Haiti, the western hemisphere's poorest country with highest level of malnutrition, "so that the devastating effects of the earthquake do not increase hunger in the capital and elsewhere."

Liu Zhenmin, Chinese deputy permanent representative to the UN, on Friday told a UN flash appeal meeting to raise funds for Haiti that "the Chinese government will closely follow the developments of the disaster in Haiti, and positively respond to the flash appeal of the United Nations."

"China will do what it can to provide assistance and contribute to the efforts of the Haitian people to triumph over the disaster and rebuild their homes at an early date," Liu said.

Liu said China reacted immediately after the earthquake. On Wednesday, China sent a 60-member rescue team to Haiti, which started disaster relief immediately after its arrival.

Following a US$1 millon donation by the Red Cross Society of China, the Chinese government announced Friday it would provide 30 million RMB (some US$4.4 million) worth of humanitarian emergency supplies to Haiti.

In addition, Chinese peacekeeping police working for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were also fully engaged in the relief efforts on the ground, he said.

The Chinese working group in Haiti have been searching for their compatriots in the quake region and made arrangements for their needs.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would go to Haiti Saturday with US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah to meet President Preval and inspect the US rescue work there.

Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said in Brasilia after returning from a trip to Haiti early Friday that what the Haitian people lacked most was equipment for medical treatment and food.

He said the Brazilian air force had built a field hospital in Port-au-Prince and the navy was considering transporting a medical center to Haiti.

Cuba had sent its second 60-member medical team to Haiti with large amounts of medicine, blood plasma and food on Friday, two days after the first team reached there, Latin American News Agency reported.

Other countries including Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, Finland, Lebanon and Poland have offered relief funds, goods and materials and sent rescue teams.

(Xinhua News Agency January 16, 2009)

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