Friday, January 15, 2010

U.N. to launch Haiti emergency appeal for $550 mln

U.N. to launch Haiti emergency appeal for $550 mln

Fri Jan 15, 2010 7:30am EST
* Thousands of injured still waiting for help

* Food stocks reported looted in Haiti, WFP says

* WFP may set up collective kitchens in Port-au-Prince

GENEVA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - U.N. aid agencies will launch an emergency appeal for approximately $550 million on Friday to help survivors of the earthquake in Haiti, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

"There will be a U.N. flash appeal later today in New York for about $550 million," U.N. spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian told a briefing in Geneva, the United Nations' humanitarian capital.

Thousands of people injured in Tuesday's massive earthquake in the Caribbean country spent a third night waiting for help, many lying on sidewalks, as their despair turned to anger.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 17 search and rescue teams were deployed in the capital Port-au-Prince, with six more on their way, but no further teams were needed for now.

"There are pockets of survival, we shouldn't give up hope," spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said. "They are working around the clock."

No further field hospitals were required but medical teams including surgeons and medicines were badly needed, Byrs said.

At least 10 percent of housing in the capital was destroyed, making about 300,000 homeless, but in some areas 50 percent of buildings were destroyed or badly damaged, according to a preliminary assessment by U.N. disaster experts.

Under the U.N. appeal, the World Food Programme will seek to provide life-saving food rations to 2 million destitute people for the next month. A longer-term operation is planned up to July 15.

"We need high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals as quickly as possible," WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella said.

The WFP had reports from partner aid agencies that its warehouses in Haiti had been looted, but had not been able to reach them yet to verify whether its stocks were gone, she said.

"In an emergency, looting is something that is not unusual. Stores have been cleaned out. People in a desperate situation will do what they can to get food for their loved ones," Casella told reporters in Geneva.

The WFP distributed food to 4,000 people gathered at the prime minister's compound in Port-au-Prince on Thursday following an earlier hand-out in the town of Jacmel.

"We are trying to get the food we do have our hands on to people. What we have been able to do so far is a drop in the bucket," Casella said.

The WFP was also exploring the possibility of setting up some 200 collective kitchens in Port-au-Prince to feed the homeless, she said.

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