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UN chief urges against aid 'fatigue' in hurricane-hit Haiti

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "the United Nations stands by your side. We will mobilise all resources to help you."? Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Haiti, Port-au-Prince Oct 16, 2016, 01.59 AM (IST)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced distress on Saturday at the "absolute devastation" caused by a deadly hurricane in Haiti, and disappointment at scant emergency aid reaching the struggling nation.


"I am disappointed by the response of the international community. I sincerely hope and I urge the major donors to lend their helpful hand," Ban said at Port-au-Prince airport following a helicopter overflight of the hard-hit southern regions.


Haiti is only just emerging from the devastating aftermath of a January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. The international aid that poured in at the time, poorly coordinated, became a major fiasco, with only a fraction of the funds reaching the victims of the catastrophe.


"I know there is some fatigue from certain countries, but the current situation, the current disaster that hit this country through Hurricane Matthew is beyond description," Ban said during a joint press conference with interim president Jocelerme Privert.


At least 546 people were killed, and more than 175,000 people have lost their homes.


Ban said Monday that a "massive response" was needed to cope with the destruction, with 1.4 million people in need of urgent assistance after towns and villages were almost wiped off the map.


The United Nations has launched a flash appeal for $120 million to help Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, cope with its worst humanitarian crisis since a devastating 2010 earthquake.


But so far, only about 12 per cent of the needed funds has been raised to help stave off famine and serious health crises, including cholera.


'Very, very sad' 

Privert, the interim leader, called for long-term support from allies.


"There will always be hurricanes, there will always be catastrophes. We need concrete actions to mitigate the damage from the next hurricanes that have not hit yet," Privert said.


Earlier, Ban visited Les Cayes, one of the worst affected by Hurricane Matthew when it crashed ashore on October 4, packing winds of 145 miles (230 kilometers) per hour.


"I was very, very sad when we saw the complete devastation. But people the world over stand with you," the UN chief said, speaking in French.


"The United Nations stands by your side. We will mobilise all resources to help you." 


The streets have been cleaned. The branches and tree trunks form massive heaps on the sidewalks. Businesses have reopened.


Ban was warmly received at Philippe Guerrier high school, where more than 500 people are still huddled. He spoke with a young man who was wounded, before telling the displaced: "kembe fem" in Creole ("hang in there").


"We have been told to leave because school has to start again, but we don't have anywhere to go," said Aivi Jean-Bar. 


"They bring us a bit to eat and drink, but that's not what we need. What we want to know is where we can go to sleep," the 36-year-old woman sheltering at the school with her four children told AFP.


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