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UN: Haiti Has 'Long Way to Go' in Post-quake Recovery

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With the emergency search and rescue phase winding down in Haiti, there is still a lot that needs to be done where issues of sanitation, hygiene and shelter top the list of priorities in the new phase, the top UN humanitarian official said Tuesday.

For Haiti, there is still a "very long way to go to get to all the people in need," John Holmes said at UN Headquarters in New York. "We have a lot to do yet."

Noting that while there is no current sign of any epidemic, sanitation and hygiene need to be urgently addressed to prevent any threat of disease, he said.

He noted that shelter was another priority where "better rudimentary shelters" need to be created as "quickly as possible" in a systematic way.

The UN intends to enact a better assessment that evaluates the specific needs of Haitians where Holmes noted that many people have left Port-au-Prince and have relocated to different communities.

It is important to find out what their needs are in their new locations, Holmes said.

A roadmap for rebuilding Haiti was endorsed Monday by major donor countries and regional and multilateral partners in Montreal, Canada.

"It was a good meeting ... wide agreement amongst all concerned, " Holmes said.

Much of the emphasis in the meeting was the importance towards a local ownership of the Haitian government in the reconstruction process, Holmes said.

"The focus is on planning for next stage ... the reconstruction, the redevelopment," Holmes said.

Search-and-rescue efforts were winding down from the peak activity that had seen 67 teams, almost 2,000 people, involved, he said.

The United Nations death toll stood at 82 and the number unaccounted for had come down recently to 45, he said, expressing hope it would come down further still.

Most people, he said, now had access to clean water, but many still did not have enough and intensive activity was being carried out on that front.

The World Food Program (WFP) said that 10 million meals had been served, but many people did not yet have access, and all actors were stepping up efforts to provide millions more ready-to- eat meals in the weeks ahead, he said.

Holmes, who have also just returned from an international conference on Haiti in Montreal, said that the emphasis of the meeting had been on the empowerment of Haitians, employment to get cash into people's pockets and planning for next stage of reconstruction and redevelopment.

He said that there was agreement by all concerned on a process needed to lead up to a proposed donor conference late in March, to be hosted by the United States in New York.

High-level officials from the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Japan, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Mexico, as well as those from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) attended the conference.

(Xinhua News Agency January 27, 2010)