By JONATHAN EWING, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations (news – web sites) appealed Tuesday for $35 million to fund emergency humanitarian relief operations to help stabilize Haiti following a rebellion that led President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to flee into exile a week ago.
The funds are intended to help pay for six months of humanitarian assistance for three million people, the most vulnerable part of the population which includes women and children. But the Caribbean nation has been plagued by insecurity and looting, making access to food and basic health care nearly impossible for the most vulnerable elements of the population.
“In terms of emergency relief, we have people who can in minutes set up what is needed in terms of food and clean water,” Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said.
“But we’re not police and we’re not governors — so we need help to move toward security, stabilization and rehabilitation in Haiti,” he said.
On Tuesday, a U.N. official flew to Haiti to prepare for the arrival of a 16-member U.N. team of political, military, police and logistics experts who will lay the ground for what will likely be a long-term U.N. presence in the country, said U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard.
The 16-member team will arrive Wednesday, followed by a second wave of staff from U.N. agencies, organizations and funds who will likely arrive over the weekend, he added. A third wave will arrive early next week.
The first phase of relief, as envisioned in Tuesday’s appeal, will bring in food and medical supplies — some overland from the Dominican Republic, while other deliveries will be shipped or flown in.
But aid delivery is likely to be complicated by Haiti’s armed groups.
On Tuesday, U.S. Marines announced they will begin helping Haitian police disarm rebel groups, but the move is seen as a tall order in a country where all sides are threatening to resume the bloody rebellion that ousted Aristide.
“Getting the weapons off the street will go a long way in helping us to accomplish our mission,” Egeland said. “Gun removal is the only way to make sure that the poorest people have access to humanitarian aid.”
In the past few weeks, several hospitals and health centers have been the target of armed groups, and for almost three months, the University Hospital in Port-au-Prince has been closed. The same is true for many other clinics and hospital in Haiti.
Medicine, including vaccines, as well as medical supplies, are in critically short supply. Often they can only be found in private institutions, leaving treatment for the majority of the population out of reach.