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UN Initiates Coordinated Recovery Plan for Haiti

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In unveiling its plan to better coordinate the influx of humanitarian aid to Haitians, the United Nations hopes to accomplish one of the most complex operations in recent memory, a senior UN official said here on Monday.

The UN proposal is designed to coordinate and integrate the political sphere with aid response and military troops, Anthony Banbury, the UN assistant-secretary-general for field operations, said from the capital of Port-au-Prince via video.

Under the framework of the Joint Operations and Tasking Center (JOTC), political decisions will be based on a prioritized aid response. UN peacekeeping police and military troops, in coordination with US and Canadian soldiers, will then turn strategic objectives into action.

The plan, which was launched on Monday in Montreal, Canada, during a donors conference, will take effect Tuesday morning and will operate 24 hours, seven days a week.

"There is a very important need for coordination, there is a lot of talk about coordination," said Banbury. "But the fact that there's a need for it and a lot of talk for it doesn't make it easy to accomplish on the ground."

Part of the challenge has been the sheer number of relief efforts, some of which are carried out by organizations new to the Caribbean island. Other problems include logistical issues such as blocked roads and an airport running at full capacity.

Almost two weeks later, food, water and medial aid are getting to hundreds of thousands of Haitians, but that figure represents a fraction of the 3 million affected. Meanwhile, frustrations continue to grow. Local media have reported several incidents of violence at food distribution centers. On Sunday, Brazilian troops reportedly fired warning shots and sprayed teargas into crowds of quake survivors.

UN mission spokesman David Wimhurst, who was at the chaotic scene, told reporters here that the problem began once all the food had been distributed.

"Of course, when the food was finished then at that point people who hadn't received anything got upset, and that's understandable," he said.

The UN hopes that the JOTC will prevent such incidents from playing out again. But Banbury warned that the integrated plan will only work if the Haitian government takes a "leading role."

"The relief and recovery process won't work without Haitian ownership," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2010)