Haiti: OCHA coordinates UN agency relief efforts

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In the following interview with Nick Reader, Spokesman for OCHA in Haiti, Mr. Reader tells UN Radio's Donn Bobb what UN agencies are doing to mitigate the crisis in the country. He begins by saying search and rescue are the first priority:

READER: The emphasis for the first few days of the operation was very much on getting the search and rescue teams in, saving lives in the first few hours and days after the earthquake. The humanitarian peace effort has also been building up steadily since the first day after the earthquake. Today, the World Food Programme (WFP) is expecting to feed 89,000 people around the city. There is more and more aid getting into the airport, also coming in over land, it's getting out of the facilities and out into the streets quicker. There is still some problems of bottlenecks but the work is underway ..

DONN: What of the many people who are homeless in Port au Prince? What is being done to ease their plight?

READER: There's still immense needs in Port au Prince - the most basic things that's needed are shelter, food, water, sanitation, basic medical assistance and medicines. There, in addition to the food distributions, there are water purification tablets being distributed, water containers to carry home in, tents and tarpaulins are reaching us now and are being distributed by the International Office for Migration and its partners which is working on reaching 60,000 people a day with these kinds of items. There are more and more humanitarian aid workers here in the country setting up the medical clinics. There are another 11 medical teams expected on the ground in another day or two. There's a lot of activities happening here.

DONN: Okay, I want to tackle the medical situation in a moment, but first the question of shelter. Lots of people lost their homes and have been living basically in parks and on the streets, what is being done to try and ease their plight I mean, about moving them out of Port au Prince or something?

READER: That's right. At the moment, we estimate around 200 thousand families have lost their homes and are currently homeless. That's about 1 million people we estimate. The primary need is for getting tents, tarpaulins. At the moment, they're scattered around the city and informal settlements, many of them without any kind of informal cover. The other needs for them is of course for them to be grouped in secure areas and for them to be able to access the relief items which is coming in to the city. The intention is to create distribution points, four distribution points around the city from which they will receive all the other items which they need rather than the aid workers going out to all the scattered settlements, we want to centralize the distribution.

DONN: On the question of medical now, I understand that the hospitals, well what's left of the hospitals in Haiti, they're overwhelmed, and also the medical centers, or the field hospitals that have been set up also are overwhelmed. What about neighbouring countries? Haiti shares a common island with the Dominican Republic.

READER: That's right. The cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic throughout this crisis has been excellent in all areas. You're right that the medical facilities there have significant concerns for humanitarians. The problem is there's great overcrowding in the hospitals which are able to continue functioning - they're seeing people obviously with very serious injuries in the aftermath of the crisis. After they've been treated they don't have anywhere to go. Many of them are staying in the hospitals. Of course there are always people coming in to the facilities. Well, an assessment has been done of the capacity of the remaining clinics, new field hospitals have been brought in to the country and medical teams are still arriving providing additional capacity.

DONN: One final question Nick before you go, what is the outlook for the next couple of days?

READER: Well, as I said, the relief effort is definitely building up. We're seeing more items coming in and more things reaching people everyday the operation continues. These distribution points will get up and running that will make centralized distributions to people easier. We will see more aid workers in the country or so reaching the outlying areas of Port au Prince and making assessments and bringing things outside the capital.

Duration: 3"54"