Tag Archives: OCHA

UN humanitarian chief: We are at a critical moment

 Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Date: 10 Jul 2009 (Islamabad/New York, 10 July 2009):

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) John Holmes today briefed the press in Islamabad on the last day of his mission to Pakistan.

On his first visit to the country in his current capacity as Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Holmes expressed his appreciation for the cooperation of the Government of Pakistan in helping meet the needs of those displaced in recent months.

“The Government of Pakistan and the humanitarian community have done a commendable job in the circumstances in tackling a massive and very rapid displacement crisis,” he said, pointing to the provision of food, water, sanitation and health care, among other necessities, to up to two million people.

He stressed, however, that more is required to reach all those in need. While it is easier to reach those in camps, 90% of the displaced are elsewhere, in schools or other public buildings, and with host families. Acknowledging the generosity and selflessness of host communities, he said that more had to be done in particular to help both the displaced and their hosts in these situations.

This could be seen in his trip to the village of Jamal Garhi, in Mardan district, where there were as many displaced people as residents, and in one case, one family was hosting some 95 displaced people. The ERC lauded the fortitude of the displaced, saying that he was astonished at their “resilience and ability to cope under very difficult circumstances.

I was struck,” he said, “by the many, many children I saw, who are living in abnormal and unfamiliar situations but who are trying to lead normal lives as children despite that. They and their families are in need of urgent help right now, and we will need to help them live even better lives later,” he concluded. The ERC focused particularly on the timing and nature of the return of the displaced.

In Buner district, officials had told him that already, more than half of the displaced had returned. Mr. Holmes said that, from his own observations during his trip to Buner, normal life did appear to be resuming to some extent. He said that the situation in other districts, where the UN has so far had no access due to security concerns, was harder to assess.

The UN supported the desirability of returns as soon as possible, and people wanted to return as soon as they can. At the same time, Mr. Holmes underlined that returns must be genuinely voluntary, and that conditions on the ground must be right, including security and the restoration of basic services.

In the meantime, preparations continue for the monsoon season and for further displacement that may come as other military operations are undertaken. Mr. Holmes emphasized the need for respect for International Humanitarian Law in all cases, and stressed that the attention of the media and donors continues to be vital.

“We are at a critical moment. The suffering we see here is every bit as real and as deserving of help as suffering we see elsewhere,” he said. “I therefore urge the donor community to respond generously.” Mr. Holmes also met the President of Pakistan, Asif Zardari, civil society, non-government organisations and donors on 10 July.

He leaves Pakistan on 11 July.

For further information, please call:

OCHA Pakistan: Stephanie Bunker, mobile +92 300 850 2397, bunker@un.org;
OCHA New York: Nicholas Reader, +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117, reader@un.org
OCHA-Geneva: Vanessa Huguenin, +41 22 917 1891, huguenin@un.org
OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or www.reliefweb.int
For more information about CERF, please see http://cerf.un.org

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Aid agencies call for strong agreement to address ‘humanitarian shocks’ of climate change

(Bonn, 8 June 2009): A group of key UN and non-UN aid agencies attending climate change talks in Bonn this week are calling for the humanitarian impacts of climate change to be addressed in the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen in December.

Joining forces, the 18 organizations of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) argue that the next agreement on climate change has to take the humanitarian perspective into account. It is also essential for the agreement to set out a workable approach to help the world counter the impacts of extreme weather events and environmental degradation on vulnerable communities.

“The scale of the potential humanitarian challenge presented by climate change in the future is huge. This is a defining moment to ensure that the challenge is not insurmountable and human suffering is minimised,” said John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

There are three paramount concerns: First, the total number of people affected by disasters has risen sharply over the past decade with an average of 211 million people directly affected each year, nearly five times the number affected by conflict in the same period.

Extreme and slow-onset climate events – such as floods, storms, droughts, rising sea levels and desertification – are impacting more and more people each year, adversely affecting human lives and livelihoods in many communities. The most vulnerable, including women and children, are those already struggling with poverty, insecurity, hunger, poor health and environmental decline.

Second, climate change is expected to dramatically affect patterns of migration and population movement. While migration is already a form of adaptation for some, the many millions expected to be displaced by prolonged droughts, repeated floods or storms will be especially vulnerable and require significant assistance and protection.

More than 20 million people have been displaced by climate-related sudden-onset natural disasters in 2008 alone, according to a new study by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“For the first time, we have a solid indication of the scale of forced displacement as a result of sudden-onset natural disasters in the context of climate change”, said NRC Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson.

Third, the Copenhagen agreement presents a rare opportunity to shape and guide the international response to the humanitarian consequences of climate change over the next decade. With the right approach, many of these consequences can be averted or reduced over the next decade. The humanitarian community – with its expertise, systems and partnerships – can help to manage these disaster risks.

But adapting to these climatic shocks will need a new humanitarian business model – one that focuses on prevention and preparedness activities and that also strengthens national and local capacities to cope with the future impact of climate disasters.


For media contact in Bonn on 8-9 June: Ravini Thenabadu +41 79 500 6549 thenabadur@who.int

For further information, please contact:

NRC Oslo: Siri Elverland, mobile +47+ 47 93 21 82 19, siri.elverland@nrc.no

IFRC Geneva: Paul Conneally +41(0)22.730.4669 paul.conneally@ifrc.org

IOM Geneva : Jemini Pandya +4179 2173374 jpandya@iom.int

UNICEF Geneva : Veronique Taveau+41 79 216 9401 vtaveau@unicef.org

UNHCR Geneva: Andre Wilkens wilkens@unhcr.org

WFP Rome: Ralf Suedhoff +39 06 6513 2776 ralf.suedhoff@wfp.org

WHO Geneva: Marina Maiero +41 76 2350115, maierom@who.int

OCHA New York: Nicholas Reader +1-212-963-4961, reader@un.org

OCHA Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs +41 22 917 2653 byrs@un.org Copyright © IOM. All rights reserved.

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OPT/Gaza: Restrictions hindering landmine clearance efforts



– A landmine clearance group working with the UN’s Mine Action Service has noted that a number of large aircraft bombs and white phosphorous projectiles have been gathered in an area inside Gaza City. But the de-miners say they will not know the true scale of the problem until more debris is cleared. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that teams have been collecting unexploded ordnance in Gaza City. But due to restrictions on supplies crossing into Gaza, they do not have the materials necessary to destroy or isolate the ordnance.

– Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that over 14,000 homes were totally or partially damaged in the recent fighting. In an effort to meet the long-term shelter needs of the displaced, UNDP will see that 10,000 families get between 1,000 and 5,000 dollars in cash aid, according to family size, current socio-economic status and level of home damage.

– UNDP also says that, of the more than 400 schools that it assessed in Gaza, over 60 percent had been partly or severely damaged. Repairing damaged schools remains an urgent priority, UNDP says. In the meantime, UNICEF has provided ten tents as learning spaces in the hardest-hit areas.

– OCHA also reports that aid workers continue to face difficulty in obtaining access to Gaza through the Erez crossing. During January, for example, only 18 out of 178 staff requests were granted clearance.

– Asked where aid workers have been stuck, the Spokeswoman said much of the problem was on the Israeli side. At the same time, she stressed, efforts are underway to secure their movement.

SHAHRUL PESHAWAR – Humanitarian Workers should be really careful, especially those who are not trained in “post-war” situation.  NGO’s and personnel coming to Gaza and Palestine should spend time reading articles on this and do some homework to identify and get the idea of how the thing (landmine) looks like.  Do not risk your staff with landmine and uxo. Providing them with insurance is not going to protect them from the worst scenario.


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Political crisis and humanitarian situation in Madagascar

Source: United Nations Country Team in Madagascar

Date: 30 Jan 2009

The following report has been prepared by the OCHA support mission to the Office of the Resident Coordinator in Madagascar in collaboration with the UN Country Team.


The current political volatility in Madagascar has resulted in massive street protests, violence and looting. In Antananarivo significant material damage has been done to shops, markets and other businesses. Deaths (82) and a high number of injured people (321 injured of whom 108 hospitalised)[1] were registered in hospitals and other health centers across Antananarivo and other cities and regions (Toliary, Antsirabe, region Diana, region Sava, Fianarantsoa)[2] . As of today, only three local radio stations are reported functioning in the capital and there is still no nation-wide TV coverage. All international and domestic airports, as well as ports, are operational.


The UN Country Team, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, is closely monitoring the humanitarian situation in the country. The UN House, where a majority of the UN agencies are based, is open and functioning. In view of the operational and logistical challenges, UN agencies are reviewing their operational capacity and are ready to take appropriate measures when necessary; this includes the strengthened security of WFP’s port warehouses in Toamasina and Toliary where for security reasons dispatches from these warehouses have been suspended until further notice. The UNICEF warehouse in Antananarivo is under no threat, having been reinforced with additional security personnel.


The continuing political crisis is likely to compound the fight for daily survival of the two thirds of the Malagasy population living in poverty, risking pushing many even further over the edge. As the crisis spreads into other major cities and towns of the country, it is expected to generate equal humanitarian challenges. The UN Country Team is not only concerned about the immediate humanitarian impact, but also that Madagascar is likely to find itself with weakened capacity to respond to a number of humanitarian challenges, either current or lying ahead, including the cyclones, floods and drought, to which the country is excessively prone.

HEALTH (Cluster Lead: WHO)

There is a serious concern about public health including the access to basic health services. Besides transport difficulties, the population is likely to have fewer financial resources to pay for transport to and from medical facilities. Approximately 165 women give birth every day in Antananarivo. Women giving birth during curfew hours at night have no access to trained birth attendants, and even less to emergency obstetric care if needed. Also, deteriorating environmental conditions and limited surveillance create an epidemic risk. Other factors to take into account are the existence of a high rate of children under 5 vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases (at least 20%), the low rate of health facilities utilization, estimated at 30%, and the educed access to iron supplements for pregnant women and Vitamin A for breastfeeding women.


A serious concern exists with regards to the access of the most vulnerable groups, in particular women and children, to limited public and social support services under the political crisis. Technical clusters are well aware of the protection challenges and are closely monitoring the situation in Antananarivo and in the field. The unusual rates of violence recorded this week have generated high levels of stress and anxiety among the population, including children and youth who witnessed or were directly exposed to it. This is likely to require in some cases psychological support which, unfortunately, is at a nascent stage in Madagascar. The destruction and potential negative economic impact are likely to result in job losses, thereby directly decreasing overall family cash income and risking generating harmful behaviour. Linked to food insecurity and school drop-out rates, the protective environment of children in poor areas are all expected to be adversely impacted.


There is a serious concern about food security. A chain of stores, MAGROS, has been pillaged with large quantities of rice disappearing overnight. MAGROS is known to stock rice, which has a stabilizing effect on the overall rice price index in the country. Some shortages of rice and cooking oil have been reported as citizens continue to stock up on basic commodities, leading to price increases on the market for basic necessities. While currently some looted stocks are reportedly being sold at reduced prices in peripheral markets, lack of cash in hand as well as potential shortages may seriously impact on the food basket of the most vulnerable families, affecting the children under 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women diet and nutrition status. It should be noted that nutritional and food security surveys carried out late 2008 by UNICEF and WFP respectively confirm the already precarious situation of the urban population in these areas. UNICEF’s survey shows that malnutrition for children under 5 years of age (as shown by chronic malnutrition rate > 50%) in some parts of Antananarivo is above the country’s average. WFP’s food security assessment for Antananarivo shows that 20% of the population is under severe food insecurity; 42% under moderate food insecurity; while only 29% are relatively safe in terms of food security[3]. A high proportion of women (19%) have a Body Mass Index lower than 18.5, representing chronic energy deficiency. In addition one pregnant woman in two (50%) suffers from anemia[4]. Therefore, lack of availability of food could exacerbate these vulnerabilities.


Depending on their locations in the captail and potential exposure to violence, many schools remain closed to date. The need for catch-up classes, specific support to re-establish the sense of normalcy, and activities to reassure children will need to be urgently addressed in Antananarivo.

HABITAT (Cluster Lead: IFRC/Malagasy Red Cross)

Currently no impact


The political crisis is putting on hold the municipal garbage collection services, causing the accumulation of garbage. An imminent return of rains would likely bring about the deterioration of water quality in the poor areas of Antananarivo where most people use either well water or water collected from rice fields.


On account of the fact that the first rice harvest has already been picked, with the second harvest planted, there is no immediate impact of the political unrest on the sector, according to FAO. However, if the crisis persists, it is predicted that the long term impact on agriculture will take up the form of labour shortages generated by security issues. Experience tells that people are reluctant to migrate for work from other regions under current conditions. This could potentially have a significant impact on the yield and price of rice, as was the case in May 2002.


The current crisis is impacting on logistics and communication in terms of accessibility, timely delivery of assistance, and interruptions in the flow of information between the capital and the field. The cluster is currently studying the type of impact the ongoing political turmoil will have on logistics and communication, focusing on the measures to be taken to minimize it.


The Early Recovery network, with the involvement of all UN agencies, is developing an Early Recovery Framework and an Early Recovery Work Plan. Key strategies include: – Reconciliation and stabilisation, – Ensuring equitable governance, – Revitalizing economic livelihoods and food security, – Restoring basic services, – Promoting human rights and gender, – A context-based Post Crisis Needs Assessment (PCNA) with the collaboration of the World Bank and UN agencies, – Initial Livelihood Impact Assessment (ILIA) or Detailed Livelihood Assessment (DLA) with the participation of FAO, ILO and UNDP, – Emphasis on the importance of activities around “responsible communication”, including: Working with the media and engaging respected local community leaders and elders to (1) change the dynamic of messages from partisan to objective information/facts, and (2) mitigate further violence and looting; Working on equitable governance advocating for a reconciliation platform if needed.


Last week two cyclones, Eric and Fanele, struck the north-eastern and south-western coasts of Madagascar respectively, bringing heavy rain and strong winds to a number of districts. Fortunately, this time the level of damage was moderate. It is believed that existing national capacity, supported by the Humanitarian Country Team, suffices to assume the responsibility for relief efforts for some 54,802 people affected and 4,102 without shelter[5]. The districts of Mandritsara (Sofia Region, hit by Eric) and Morondava and Manja (Menabe Region, hit by Fanele) have been the most severely affected in general. The cyclone season traditionally continues through April 2009. Unfortunately, UNICEF staff in the field working on cyclone response have reported a marked decrease in government response to the emergency as the crisis in Antananarivo evolved. Given the current socio-political crisis in Antananarivo, further coordination on emergency cyclone response has been put on hold due to the ongoing unrest. It remains to be seen how soon the activities will pick up at full speed. A meeting of a humanitarian platform, CRIC[6], planned on 24 January was already postponed twice until further notice. In spite of the outlined difficulties, the UN agencies operating in the field are making every effort to keep up their operations in the impacted areas. For example, in collaboration with CRS in Morondava[7], WFP had prepositioned 87 Mt of cereals and 13 Mt. of pulses which are being distributed to affected people in the area. Five UNICEF trucks containing education, health and WASH supplies that departed Antananarivo on Friday, 23 January, arrived in Morondava on the weekend of 24-25 January with the intervention starting immediately. In addition, UNICEF is leading repairs and clean-up of affected schools in Morondava in coordination with the Ministry of Education and volunteers from the community. International NGOs such as CARE, CRS, and Aquasure, as well as the Malagasy Red Cross, reportedly continue their operations in the field. In the south of Madagascar, WFP continues to carry out school feeding, nutrition and FfW activities without a reported interruption and UNFPA continues offering basic and reproductive health services and information, including hygiene kits, to drought affected women of reproductive age.


Humanitarian activities are coordinated by the Office of the Resident Coordinator, with the support of UN OCHA. The Cluster Approach is active and operational in Madagascar under the leadership of cluster leads. Coordination of activities in disaster preparedness and management at the UN level is dealt with by a technical group GT PGC (Groupe Thématique pour la Prévention et la Gestion des Catastrophes), chaired and vice-chaired by UNICEF and WFP respectively. The UN Information Centre (CINU) is in charge of the UN information strategy vis-à-vis Malagasy citizens, keeping them informed on UN mission and activities in the country.

Contact Details:

Dr. Xavier Leus Resident Coordinator of the UN System Antananarivo, Madagascar Mateusz Tuniewicz Information and Advocacy Officer UN OCHA/BCR Antananarivo, Madagascar: +261 32 05 076 94 Zoe Rasoaniaina National Information Officer UN Information Centre Antanananarivo, Madagascar: +261 32 07 466 69 Rija Rakotoson Humanitarian Affairs Officer UN OCHA/BCR Antananarivo, Madagascar +261 32 05 076 93


[1] Official data released by the Ministry of Health, Madagascar.

[2] Official data released by the Ministry of Health, Madagascar.

[3] WFP’s Food Security Assessment in Urban Areas of Madagascar. November 2008.

[4] Demographic and Health Survey 2003-2004.

[5]The latest consolidated data available from the BNGRC in Madagascar as of 27 January at 1 PM in addition to the latest information from the region.

[6] Main coordination body between Government and partners

[7] The district of Morondava was impacted by Cyclone Fanele.

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As winter nears in Kyrgyzstan, UN aid officials voice fears on living conditions


United Nations humanitarian officials are voicing concern for an estimated 700,000 people in Kyrgyzstan, with many lacking decent shelter and facilities as the often bitter Central Asian winter approaches.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Kyrgyzstan include 580,000 people classed as food insecure and 250,000 people at risk because of electricity and water shortages.

Central Asian winters can be extremely harsh, particularly in the mountainous regions of southern Kyrgyzstan, which were also hit early last month by a deadly earthquake.

OCHA said UN agencies and their non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are working together to complement Kyrgyz Government efforts to devise a winter response plan to ensure minimum standards of basic services throughout the winter season. The response plan requires some $18 million to be put into practice.

SHAHRUL PESHAWAR – Come everybody, lets support UN and OCHA!

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UN humanitarian chief appeals for calm after Haiti school collapse


(New York, 10 November 2008): UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes expressed his heartfelt condolences to the relatives and friends of the children and teachers affected by the collapse of the La Promesse school in Nerette, Petion ville commune, Port-au-Prince.

“This terrible catastrophe means more suffering and tragedy for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, already struggling to recover from years of war, poverty and successive natural disasters,” Mr. Holmes said.

Search and rescue operations conducted by Haitian, French and American rescue teams have been on-going since the collapse happened last Friday. The rescuers are working in shifts to sift through the debris. Operations are expected to continue until Tuesday. Mr. Holmes appealed for calm in Port-Au-Prince to allow emergency rescue workers and medical organizations to do their expert work.

“Emergency rescue teams attempting to reach trapped people have been seriously impeded by crowds who are sometimes blocking the movement of heavy lifting equipment and medical supplies and preventing the evacuation of wounded people. I entirely understand people’s grief and desperation. But this only slows down rescue operations,” Mr. Holmes said.

It is still unknown how many children were in the school when it collapsed, but the government has estimated 250-260. Latest official information provided by the Haitian Civil Protection Unit shows that 89 victims are reported dead; 150 wounded persons have been transferred to hospitals.

For further information, please call: Stephanie Bunker, OCHA New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679, bunker@un.org; Nicholas Reader, OCHA New York +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117, reader@un.org, John Nyaga, OCHA New York, + 1 917 367 9262, nyagaj@un.org; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570, byrs@un.org.

OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or http://www.reliefweb.int.

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Balochistan Earthquake – OCHA situation report No. 5


– The Earthquake in Balochistan province has left 166 deaths and 370 injured (government confirmed figure).

– According to the initial results of McRAM (Multi-Cluster Rapid Assessment Mechanism) survey of 36 villages in the three earthquake affected districts of Balochistan (Ziarat, Pishin and Harnai) Ziarat is the worst affected. Around 68,200 people were affected in the area and need assistance. About 7,600 houses have been completely or partially damaged.


1. An earthquake of magnitude 6.4 has hit Balochistan province in south-western Pakistan on 29 October.

According to the US Geological Survey, the epicenter of the quake was in Chiltan mountains, 80 kilometers northwest of Quetta. The first tremor struck at 4:09 am local time (23:09 GMT) at a depth of 10 kilometer while the second one came at 5:15 am. The affected region is the mountainous area extending from Ziarat, about 110 KMs northeast of Quetta to Pishin, Qilla Abdullah to Chaman (border town along Afghan border). Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) reports that the worst hit area falls within villages Khanozai and Topa Achakzai in eastern Pishin district and Wachun Kawas village in Ziarat district and possibly Harnai district (east of Ziarat).

2. According to the initial results of McRAM (Multi-Cluster Rapid Assessment Mechanism) survey conducted from 31 October to 3 November 2008 in 36 villages of the three most affected districts of Balochistan, 50% of the 68,200 people affected are children. Most urgent needs include shelter, food, warm clothing, emergency medical care, water and sanitation facilities. Over 32% of the affected population need immediate shelter and about 62%of the affected population have no food stock, and those who have will run out of it within 2-4 weeks

Summary of Damages according to Multi Cluster Rapid Assessment Mechanism
Total Houses


3. The Prime Minister has directed Earthquake Rehabilitation and Relief Authority (ERRA) to help the

Balochistan government in the recovery phase especially in providing shelters to the affected population. The Prime Minister has announced that the cost of the shelters will be borne by the government and that the shelters should be modeled on shelters used by ERRA in NWFP and Pakistan Administered Kashmir (AJK) earthquake hit region. UN-Habitat has deployed a team with the ERRA Deputy Chairman in the affected area.

4. As of 4 November, NDMA reports that 1,100 tents, 13,900 blankets, 7,281 food packs and medicine worth Rs 4 million (USD 43,750) have been distributed through PDMA Balochistan. Through the food packs, 37,882 bags of flour, 850 bags of rice and 700 bags of sugar have been distributed.

5. Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has planned to cater for food and shelter requirements for an initial group of 4,000 affected families. So far the PRCS Provincial Branch in Quetta has dispatched emergency stocks NFIs and shelter kits for 2,300 families in Ziarat and 500 families in Pishin. The distribution has been done amongst the families identified during an assessment carried out by PRCS teams in six villages (5 villages in Ziarat and 1 village in Pishin). In addition 6 trucks loaded with 575 tents, 1,500 Plastic sheets, 3,100 quilts, 410 coal stove are ready to be dispatched to Ziarat on requirement. Four PRCS assessments and relief teams and two medical teams are deployed in Ziarat district, operating from the rural health centre in Kawas. So far 1,230 patients have been treated. The common diseases reported are Respiratory Track Infection, Pneumonia, Diarrhoea. Some cases of trauma were also treated.

Taken from RELIEF WEB.


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Haiti: UN hurricane relief appeal grossly under-funded

The United Nations today appealed to donors to make up an enormous shortfall in emergency funding for relief work in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people are still suffering from the devastation caused by four hurricanes over the past month.

Only 2 per cent of the $108 million flash appeal has so far been donated, nine days after it was launched, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

OCHA stressed that the situation remains very serious in the impoverished Caribbean country, where over 320 people were killed by the storms and flooding, and 160,000 others are still living in the open, exposed to disease and malnutrition.

Some $54 million are needed for emergency food aid. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has already helped feed some 298,000 people since the start of the crisis.

OCHA is also concerned over access to those who have not yet received aid, including people in the Artibonne and Nippes regions, where continued rains might complicate relief efforts.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Haiti, Hédi Annabi, yesterday visited hurricane victims in Hinche, central Haiti, evaluating their needs and assuring them of the commitment of the UN and the international community to help them.

Meanwhile, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow began a five-day tour today to take stock of the devastation which has affected more than 300,000 children, according to Government figures.

Ms. Farrow and UNICEF Canada head Nigel Fisher will meet with children and women victims and visit Gonaïves, the worst-hit town, where some 70,000 people are in temporary shelters.

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Humanitarian crisis in Haiti as 500 are killed

PORT-AU-PRINCE : More than 500 people were found dead in Haiti as international aid trickled Saturday to desperate residents who have not eaten in days since the latest in a battery of severe storms crushed the country, and yet another storm posed a grave threat.

As the death toll jumped nearly five-fold in the wake of Tropical Storm Hanna, the poorest country in the Americas was staring catastrophe in the face as Hurricane Ike strengthened to an “extremely dangerous” storm and threatened to dump torrential rains on Haiti’s vulnerable northwest coast.

And more deaths could emerge.

“The toll is increasing hourly,” warned the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “According to information from the government we have reached more than 500 deaths” following Hanna, which hit Haiti early in the week.

The UN Children’s Fund warned that 650,000 people have been affected by the flooding, including 300,000 children, and that key bridges have been washed out or blocked leaving many of the country’s roads impassable and complicating the task of humanitarian groups trying to deliver crucial aid.

Ground zero of the devastation was in Gonaives, a flood-prone northwestern coast city where about 3,000 people died four years ago when it was drowned by Tropical Storm Jeanne.

Senator Yuri Latortue, who represents Gonaives, said 200,000 people have not eaten in days.

Massive deforestation has left Haiti vulnerable to flooding and mudslides. After Hanna struck, many residents took refuge on the roofs of their homes before they were rescued by UN helicopters.

From the air, the rivers were muddy brown as they spilled over into entire villages. Only the roofs of homes could be seen.

Blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers on Saturday were evacuating several thousand residents from Gonaives, a civil protection official there said.

“The problem is that there are not enough shelters to house all these people, thousands of whom need to be evacuated,” the official, Youdeline Joseph, told AFP.

Kone Amara, the Haiti humanitarian assistance coordinator for the aid organization Oxfam, said the situation in Gonaives, a city of 300,000 people, was “very grave.”

“There’s no food in the city and people live in shelters with precarious hygienic conditions,” Amara said.

The aid group had planned to ship 2,000 bottles of water with the help of the World Food Program, but it could not get a boat until at least Monday, he said.

Oxfam might take aid by road, but it wants to be escorted by the UN peacekeeping mission due to security concerns.

“The people on the road feel abandoned and don’t want all the aid to be focused on Gonaives,” Amara said.

Parnell Denis, the contact for Oxfam in Gonaives, said the city was “completely devastated.”

“The streets are lined with groups of people walking through the streets trying to find higher ground,” Denis said.

“Food supplies and water are scarce and the price of the food that’s left is rising. The morale of people staying in the shelters is so very low; I am afraid to tell them that another storm is on its way.”

Hurricane Ike was forecast to pass north of Haiti, sparing it from a direct hit, but it strengthened Saturday to a Category Four storm and was expected to lash northern Haiti with heavy rains, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

“Hispaniola (the Caribbean island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) and eastern Cuba could see six to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain, with isolated maximum amounts of up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) possible,” the NHC said.

“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides over mountainous terrain.”

A tropical storm warning was issued for Haiti’s northern peninsula. Radio alerts urged residents to take precautions as the storm could strike on Sunday.

Ike, now an “extremely dangerous” hurricane energized with winds of 215 kilometers (135 miles) per hour, was preparing to roar over low-lying Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas late Saturday and was forecast to rage across Cuba late Sunday or Monday before heading towards the United States, the NHC said.

Haiti was already hit in recent weeks by two other storms, Gustav and Fay, which left nearly 120 people dead.

OCHA said it would issue an appeal in the coming days for urgent financial aid to help 600,000 people over the next six months.

In Brussels, the European Commission has launched “fast-track” aid action for two million euros (2.9 mn dollars) to provide relief for Haitians.

Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States are among the nations whose governments have committed relief aid for Haiti.

Venezuela announced Saturday it was sending a plane with 18 tonnes of food and emergency supplies to Haiti, specifically to the city of Gonaives.

Michele Pierre-Louis, Haiti’s new prime minister who was approved Friday to take office after four months of political standstill, now will have to manage a grim humanitarian crisis.

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Seven underfunded emergencies receive $30 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund

(New York, 30 July 2008): United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, today announced the allocation of $30 million to support agencies carrying out life-saving aid programmes in seven crisis countries in need of an injection of aid funding – Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Syria.

The largest recipient of funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund’s (CERF) grant allocation to underfunded emergencies is Chad, which will receive $6.8 million. The humanitarian situation in Chad has deteriorated during the first half of 2008 as a result of worsening insecurity and an influx of new refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region and the Central African Republic. An estimated 500,000 people are heavily dependent on humanitarian aid. The allocation is for projects in the 2008 United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Chad, which requested $306 million. Eight months into the year, the Appeal is less than half funded, including crucial sectors such as protection, health and education.

In Syria, a CERF grant of $4 million will benefit up to 1.5 million increasingly impoverished refugees from Iraq. The refugees are in dire need of food, non-food items and health services. Agencies working in Iraq will receive $5 million, while those implementing projects in Sri Lanka will get $4 million. Programmes in Afghanistan will receive $4.6 million, Burundi $3.6 million and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea $2 million.

‘Millions of people affected by some of the less visible crises around the world often have to endure great deprivation,’ said Mr. Holmes. ‘Funds from CERF’s underfunded emergencies window are often the last source of hope for people in such circumstances,’ Mr. Holmes added.

The funds made available today will be granted to United Nations humanitarian agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and through them to partner organizations, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to support humanitarian projects in the affected countries. Countries were selected to receive grants based on an analysis of the funding levels of their aid programmes, the severity of the humanitarian needs, and security and other constraints on aid delivery.

This is the second round of allocations from CERF’s window for underfunded emergencies in 2008. The first round in February allocated $104 million for underfunded emergencies to 14 countries.

CERF is funded by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organisations, local governments, the private sector and individual donors. This year, the donors pledged nearly $432.2 million in support of the Fund, bringing the total amount contributed to CERF since March 2006 to more than $1.1 billion. As mandated by the General Assembly, CERF commits one-third of all funds each year to redress imbalances in the global aid distribution by supporting neglected crises.

For further information, please call: Dawn Blalock, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 318 8917, John Nyaga, OCHA-New York, + 1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570, Susan Christofides, CERF Secretariat +1 917 367 5252. OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or http://www.reliefweb.int

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