Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today issued an urgent call to the international community to assist Haiti following yesterday`s catastrophic earthquake that has devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation`s capital.
Buildings and infrastructure in Port-au-Prince suffered extensive damage, while basic services, including water and electricity are near the brink of collapse. The full extent of casualties, which could number in the hundreds, is still unknown, Mr. Ban told reporters in New York.
There is no doubt that we are facing a major humanitarian emergency and that a major relief effort will be required, " he said.
Expressing gratitude to nations rushing aid to the earthquake`s victims, he called for the world to come to Haiti`s aid in this hour of need. "
The UN, he said, is also mobilizing an emergency response team to help coordinate humanitarian relief efforts and is expected to be on the ground shortly.
Many of UN personnel serving in the country " including HÃ©di Annabi, the Secretary-General`s Special Representative " are still unaccounted for, Mr. Ban said, with the UN Headquarters in the Christopher Hotel having collapsed in the tremors.
Many people are still trapped inside, " the Secretary-General " who has been in close consultation with the Governments of Haiti, the United States and others " noted.
He is scheduled to brief the General Assembly on the situation on the ground in Haiti this afternoon, following a meeting with former United States president Bill Clinton, who serves as the UN Special Envoy for Haiti..
Troops, mostly from Brazil, serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have been working through the night to reach those trapped under the rubble, and several badly injured people have been rescued and transported to the mission`s logistics base which remains intact.
Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, told journalists today that fewer than 10 UN staff were pulled out of the collapsed Christopher Hotel, with some of them confirmed to have died.
Other UN offices have been damaged, and 10 people are missing from a compound housing people working for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and others.
The Secretary-General announced today that he will dispatch Edmond Mulet, his former Special Representative to Haiti and current Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, to the country, and that the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) is releasing $10 million immediately.
The first priority is search and rescue, " with teams from the US, China, France, the Dominican Republic and other nations on their way to Haiti, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters today.
The UN, he said, will launch a flash appeal to kickstart what will certainly be a major operation and a major relief effort. "
MINUSTAH was set up in 2004 and currently has more than 9,000 military and police personnel and nearly 2,000 civilian staff. Some 3,000 of the mission`s troops and police are in and around Port-au-Prince, and will help to maintain order and assist in relief efforts. They have also started to clear some of the capital`s main roads to allow aid and rescuers to reach those in need.
The Security Council observed a moment of silence this morning, and the Secretary-General is slated to brief the General Assembly later this afternoon on the situation on the ground in Haiti.
The Security Council, which observed a moment of silence this morning, expressed its sympathy and solidarity with those affected by yesterday`s tremors in a press statement.
Council members highly commend Member States` efforts to assist in search and rescue efforts and urge the international community to continue such assistance as the Haitian people face the challenges of rescue, recovery, and reconstruction in the months ahead. " They also paid tribute to MINUSTAH`s staff and troops who have dedicated themselves to helping rebuild Haiti after years of strife; and express their concern for their current situation, as well as for that of the staff of other UN and international organizations in Haiti. "