Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Donors ignore UN Haiti storm appeal

Donors ignore UN Haiti storm appeal

Reuters AlertNet, 23 Sep 2008

Written by: Emma Batha

U.N. agencies are pressing donors to cough up cash for storm-battered Haiti after receiving only a tiny fraction of the funds needed to help hundreds of thousands of survivors living on the edge.

The $108 million flash appeal launched almost a fortnight ago has attracted just $3.7 million, according to the U.N. relief co-ordination office known as OCHA.

"It's 3.4 percent covered. That's very, very low. I don't know what people are waiting for. I have no clue," said OCHA spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker.

"Given the scale of the disaster and the relative visibility of it in the news media, one is surprised. It was not a disaster that was here one day and gone the next."

Four storms - Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike - have hammered Haiti since mid August, killing 600 people and leaving 800,000 in dire need of help after destroying houses, infrastructure and crops.

Bunker said she was puzzled that no one had donated money towards the United Nations' food operations, an area that normally attracts relatively generous funds in emergency appeals.

"It's especially surprising given what we all know about the food situation in Haiti and how much, even before the hurricane, people were being squeezed by high food prices," she added.

More than half Haiti's population subsists on $1 a day. Anger over rising food and fuel prices triggered deadly riots earlier this year, bringing down the government.

Bunker said donors had also failed to give money to other crucial sectors in the U.N. appeal, including water and sanitation, agriculture, economic recovery and education.

Although they have pledged another $18 million for Haiti, they have not yet turned these promises into cash.

By contrast, the U.N. appeal after the cyclone that hit Myanmar in May is 52 percent funded and the food requests are 83 percent covered. The more recent U.N. appeal for Georgia is 42 percent covered.


The World Food Programme, the U.N. food agency, said its operation in Haiti was proving very difficult because of the colossal destruction to infrastructure, which means most aid can only be brought in by air or sea.

"We would urge donors who have promised money to get it in our coffers as soon as possible so we can keep our pipelines flowing," said WFP spokeswoman Hilary Clarke.

"Our biggest concern is that an estimated 70 percent of Haiti's agriculture has been destroyed, which is indeed extremely serious," she added.

"The hurricane has come at a very bad time because crops like rice and maize were seedlings and it has washed them all away. And cash crop trees like mango and banana trees have suffered terrible devastation."

Clarke said another major worry was that many people who had lost their homes needed to buy basic household items, reducing the amount they could spend on food.

WFP has so far delivered 1,470 metric tonnes of food to more than 313,000 people. By the end of the week, it will have the use of four boats and two helicopters. Another two helicopters and 20 off-road trucks are on their way.

Outside the U.N. flash appeal, OCHA said donors had given some $17 million in bilateral aid to Haiti and promised another $6 million.

Reuters AlertNet