Ban Ki-moon inspects Matthew’s damage in Haiti
HAITI - The UN chief has visited victims of devastating Hurricane Matthew, saying the destruction wrought by the storm is “heartbreaking”. During Saturday’s trip, Ban Ki-moon renewed a pledge to help the nation cope with a deadly scourge of cholera that was introduced by UN peacekeepers after an earthquake in 2010.
Ban’s brief visit came as victims of the storm continued to express frustration - sometimes violently - at delays in aid about a week-and-a-half since Matthew hit southwest Haiti with 235km per hour (kph) winds, killing at least 546 people and demolishing or damaging tens of thousands of homes.
“I met so many displaced persons, young people, women who were pregnant and sick people. It was heartbreaking,” he said, describing his tour of an emergency shelter in the town of Les Cayes packed with families whose homes were destroyed.
Shortly before Ban’s helicopter was due to land in Les Cayes, a clash broke out between rock-throwing residents and peacekeepers at a UN base there. Roughly 100 frustrated residents began hurling rocks when trucks ferrying food aid arrived. Haitian police officers and UN peacekeepers scattered the group with tear gas. Calm was restored as Ban’s helicopter approached. At the close of his roughly 4.5hour stop in Haiti, Ban said at Port-au-Prince’s airport that a cholera-focused trust fund announced in recent weeks was part of the UN’s “new approach” to helping Haitian families who lost loved ones since the waterborne disease was introduced here in October 2010 - an outbreak that has been aggravated by the hurricane. The UN said the fund is designed to help Haiti overcome cholera and build stronger water, sanitation and health systems. There has long been ample evidence that cholera was introduced to the nation’s biggest river by inadequately treated sewage from a UN peacekeeping base about 10 months after Haiti’s devastating earthquake. But the UN only acknowledged in August, following a leaked internal report, that it played a role in introducing cholera to Haiti and vowed to aid victims in the impoverished Caribbean nation, which has experienced the worst outbreak of the disease in recent history.
Farhan Haq, UN deputy spokesman, said that that “the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the victims”. UN officials at one point said they were seeking about $181m for the special fund, but Ban mentioned no figures on Saturday as he vowed to help the families of victims and “most of all prevent and stop this cholera epidemic” by mobilising more UN resources. Ban expressed disappointment, however, that international funding to fight cholera in Haiti and rebuild after Matthew is so far falling far short. Ban departed Haiti for Ecuador’s capital of Quito in a UN jet on Saturday evening.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon visits a school that has been turned into a shelter for the displaced. (Photo: lexpress.fr)