On a conference call with Medicines sans Frontiere moments ago, a representative in Haiti said that all of the hospitals to which it would normally refer patients have either collapsed or are otherwise unusable. All MSF can do at the moment is administer first aid. There are no “referral” options for secondary care beyond first aid, but MSF is exploring options to deploy a “floating hospital” to Haiti.
A UN Dispatch reader and close UN observor summarizes some of the initial reactions from the UN and the UN’s role in Haiti at the moment.
— the UN humanitarian operation is on top of the humanitarian effort there. According to the Secrtary General and the head of UN Peacekeeping, UN people are already on the ground helping in the recovery operations. In addition, an emergency response team is on its way.
— The former top UN official for Haiti, Edmond Mulet, has been tapped by the Secretary General to manage the UN mission in Haiti while the current mission head and his deputy are still unaccounted for.
— UN is launching a flash appeal for the relief effort
— The UN’s CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund) has allocated $10million for assistance to Haiti. (Mark here: I’ve written about the value of this kind of emergency funding mechanism in the past.)
— UN peacekeepers, even while many UN staff and troops are still unaccounted for, have been working throughout the night to rescue Haitians from the rubble. They’re clearings roads to help reach victims and will continue to assist in the relief effort.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry’s statement on Haiti:
“Our prayers are with the people of Haiti. The Haitian people were still desperately trying to recover from deadly hurricanes that hit 18 months ago before this latest devastating blow to the poorest and least prepared country in our hemisphere. Preliminary reports suggest that thousands may have died and that tens of thousands are without shelter.
The Obama Administration’s reaction has been speedy and well-coordinated. The White House, U.S. Agency for International Development, State Department, Southern Command, and the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince have mobilized effectively and are already rushing assistance to Haiti. I am also very concerned that international humanitarian efforts led by the United Nations have been critically affected by the collapse of UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince. Our thoughts and condolences extend to the UN community. We are already working with local leadership to find ways to coordinate Massachusetts resources to aid as well. Our assistance to Haiti must be generous and sustained to ensure Haiti recovers from this humanitarian crisis and can eventually rebuild.”
UPDATE: UN Foundation President Ted Turner issues a statement. (As regular readers know, UN Dispatch enjoys the sponsorhip of the UN Foundation). In his statement, Turner notes that the UN Foundation pledges $1 million to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund.
Washington, DC (January 13, 2009) – Ted Turner today issued the following statement in response to the January 12 earthquake in Haiti:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti last night. We offer condolences to the families of those Haitians, UN peacekeepers and other international staff who have suffered tremendous losses. We are particularly concerned by reports that UN staff including Hedi Annabi, Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, are missing following the collapse of the UN headquarters building. The men and women of the United Nations work on the global frontlines, putting their lives at risk to help address the world’s most pressing problems. Many of them have paid an enormous price today.
“We are committing one million dollars today to address the most urgent humanitarian and re-construction needs in Haiti. The United Nations Foundation is calling on its partners and friends to add their support by contributing to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which is the UN’s humanitarian fund responding to emergencies like the earthquake in Haiti. Donations can be made on-line at www.unfoundation.org/donate/cerf.html.
“I note UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s statement that UN agencies are deploying to provide humanitarian assistance in close coordination with all parties on the ground. Such quick action, and the release of $10 million from CERF, is vital in preventing even further loss of life. We are grateful for the close coordination of the U.S. Government and other partners to ensure that timely, effective assistance gets to those that need it most.
“We are closely following reports about the devastation to facilities of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). This ongoing peacekeeping effort, comprised of over 9000 international forces, has been in place since the mid-1990s to enhance stability in the country. The UN is working side-by-side with Haitians to provide important security sector reforms, offer election monitoring and police training. UN peacekeepers now face the difficult transition to aid in the search, rescue and recovery efforts in the country, while confronting major personal losses of friends and colleagues.
“The UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation are also supporting the immediate deployment of two emergency response teams who will work to rebuild the communications infrastructure crippled by the earthquake. These teams, from the World Food Programme and the UN partner Télécoms Sans Frontières, are deploying to provide emergency communications systems that will enable relief workers to coordinate the delivery of life-saving aid and supplies.”
UPDATE II: President Obama’s statement. The president says that USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who just took office last Friday, has been named the administration’s point person on managing the interagency response. Talk about trial by fire.
U.S. State Department Cheryl Mills says the U.S. Embassy is intact. Finally, some good news.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitatian Affairs, which is the main UN body that oversees these sorts of massive multi-national relief efforts, releases a map of the earthquake affected area. The map overlays the intensity of the quake with the perceived vulnerability of the population.
UPDATE III: In a press briefing at the UN moments ago. OCHA chief John Holmes says that at least 50-100 people are still trapped in the rubble at the MINUSTAH HQ in Haiti. There are ten people still missing from the UN Development Program offices as well.
UPDATE IV: Susan Rice issues a statement:
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of yesterday’s devastating earthquake in Haiti.
I spoke with Secretary General Ban last night and twice this morning to coordinate efforts. I let him know that Haiti and MINUSTAH have the full support of the United States government to provide search, rescue and recovery assistance, as we also undertake efforts to assist U.S. personnel and citizens in the country.
UN peacekeepers and relief workers have been in Haiti for years to help rebuild the country from conflict, as well as destruction from natural disasters. As I witnessed when I was in Haiti last year, the people of Haiti were on a determined path to recovery. This was, in part, made possible by the hard work of the dedicated people of MINUSTAH and other UN agencies, many of whom are among the unaccounted for today.
The United States stands with the people of Haiti and with the United Nations and will support both critical immediate response and long-term recovery efforts.
Also, I’ll be on Warren Olney’s NPR show “To the Point” at 2:45 eastern.
UPDATE V: The first statement from MINUSTAH, which was read aloud at the John Holmes noon briefing at the UN.
Note to Correspondents on the Situation on Haiti
The earthquake has caused major damage in the Port-au Prince area, as well as in Jacmel.
The National Palace, the Cathedral, the Ministry of Justice and other important government offices have been destroyed.
Hotels, hospitals, schools and the national penitentiary have all suffered extensive damage
Casualties, which are vast, can only be estimated.
An unknown number – tens if not hundreds of thousands – have suffered varying degrees of destruction to their homes.
Haitians, fearful of houses collapsing on them or of a second earthquake, slept in the streets of Port-au Prince last night.
Electricity supplies have been interrupted.
Water is in short supply.
Some major transportation routes have been severely disrupted by surface cracks, rocks and boulders, fallen trees and smashed cars.
Both the Government of Haiti and the UN in Haiti have appealed for immediate and extensive relief supplies and assistance, including search and rescue capacity and medical personnel.
MINUSTAH is expecting a team of search and rescue experts from China to arrive today to lead rescue operations at the collapsed MINUSTAH headquarters.
Between 50 and 100 people are estimated to have been in the six-storey building when it collapsed and have yet to be accounted for.
Other UN offices have also been damaged, and 10 people are missing from the UNDP compound that houses UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNIFEM, WFP, OCHA and UNEP.
UN personnel seriously injured in the earthquake were evacuated from all sites overnight to UN medical facilities near the airport, which remains operational
Other search and rescue teams are reported to be arriving from Guadeloupe and the Dominican Republic and the United States.
These will be deployed to major government buildings, hotels and hospitals.
UN soldiers and police have been patrolling night and day since the earthquake struck shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, helping to maintain law and order, as well as assisting with rescue operations.
While the earthquake was felt as far afield as Les Cayes in the southwest and Gonaives to the north, little destruction has been reported in far flung areas of the country.
However, in the capital region, destruction is massive and broad, while Haitian services are visibly unable to cope.
Staff from the UN agencies, funds and programmes and from MINUSTAH’s offices at Hotel Christopher have regrouped at the mission’s logisitics base, attached to the Port-au-Prince airport, where they continue to work coordinating and,supporting the incoming international relief effort.