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UN Urges Shelter Support for Haiti's Quake Victims Ahead of Rainy Season

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With the forthcoming rainy season and hurricanes, around 1 million Haitian earthquake victims are in urgent need of sturdy shelters other than tents and plastic sheets, a senior UN officials said Monday.

Speaking to UN reporters via video link, Kim Bolduc, deputy head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said that so far 50,000 families, or 250,000 people, have received some forms of shelter such as tents and plastic sheets.

"The concern now is the rainy season that is about to come," she said.

The rainy season starts in May, but sometimes the rain comes earlier, while the hurricane season in Haiti is between July and end of November, she noted.

Foreseeing an increasing need of shelters, the United Nations is planning to construct heavier shelters that can withstand the slashes of hurricanes, she said.

The Haitian government and the UN are also considering setting up rain-resistance shelters at some strategic places inside the capital of Port-au-Prince so that in case of rain people could seek some refugee there. They are also trying to identify some sites outside the Port-au-Prince, so that people could be evacuated when the rain comes.

"We have more or less two months. In fact, time is getting very short," she said.

Such an effort, however, is being hampered by the city's poor logistics crippled by the devastating earthquake, she noted.

Due to cost reasons, the building of hurricane-resistant shelters will need heavy equipment that will have to be brought in through the port rather than by planes.

But the port had been seriously damaged in the earthquake and there is no clear date when it will be able to handle large cargo, she said.

In the meantime, the US government and army are looking into rehabilitating some capacity of the port, she said. "What is working now is a mobile pier that has a less capacity."

Bolduc said that the overall situation in Haiti remains calm, with the humanitarian and protection programs "working fairly well in spite of the very precarious conditions on the ground."

Giving an update of the UN's casualties in the earthquake, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that 94 people, including 4 contractors, are now confirmed dead, with 8 other people remaining unaccounted for.

(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2010)

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