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1.2 Mln Haitians Need Emergency Shelter as Rainy Season Approaches

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An estimated 1.2 million Haitians are in need of emergency shelter support as the rainy season approaches, the UN humanitarian chief told the Security Council here Friday.

"We are only 30 percent there," John Holmes, UN under-secretary- general and emergency relief coordinator, said when he was briefing the 15-nation Council on his recent trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

"We are straining every nerve to speed up the delivery of shelter materials, mainly plastic sheeting but also tents before the rains begin in earnest," Holmes said as he stressed shelter and sanitation "surge" as the top priority.

Around 3 million people, or one in every three Haitians, were badly affected by the earthquake, Holmes said.

He outlined the "large and complex humanitarian response" in place to the Council despite the "initial absence of so many basic services."

Holmes noted that 3 million people have received food rations, clean water is available for the vast majority, and that essential infrastructure is "increasingly operational."

"The humanitarian situation is now gradually improving on a daily basis," Holmes said, noting that the "worst of the medical emergency is behind us."

"We are under no illusion about the scale of the challenges still ahead," Holmes said, warning that "not everyone in need has yet been reached."

He said that while the UN is continuing to "refine" their assessment of the humanitarian needs, the longer-term post- disaster needs assessment process is also underway, which will look at reconstruction and redevelopment requirements.

"The cluster approach that the international humanitarian community has developed since the Asian Tsunami five years ago is proving its worth in improving coordination and the effectiveness of this response," Holmes said.

He also noted that a deputy humanitarian coordinator has also been deployed to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince to expand partnerships with key stakeholders, including bilateral donors, military forces and private actors.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN special envoy, former US President Bill Clinton, appealed to the world for US$1.44 billion to render humanitarian and early recovery assistance to the quake-hit Haiti.

The figure, the largest ever natural disaster appeal by the world body, will be used to help some three million people badly affected by the January 12 earthquake, totaling 30 percent of the population in the small Caribbean country.

(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2010)

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