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UN Officials Say Haiti Too Dangerous for Staff to Move Freely in Country - 2004-03-05

The United Nations humanitarian aid coordinator says Haiti remains too dangerous for his staff to operate freely. The world body is planning an emergency appeal for assistance for the embattled country.

Briefing the Security Council Friday, U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator Jan Egeland said conditions were so chaotic in Haiti that providing aid to much of the country is impossible. "Our number one problem at the moment is insecurity and lack of access. We still cannot reach most parts of the country," he said.

Mr. Egeland says violence has forced the World Food Program to halt a program that until recently was feeding nearly 10-percent of Haiti's population. He says emergency supplies are being kept out of the country because of the fear they will be stolen.

"Many of our warehouses were pillaged and looted, and humanitarian relief to most vulnerable groups was taken by armed gangs and that disrupted medical and food supplies," he said. "We have a ship outside Cap Haitien from World Food Program that will go in with 12 hundred metric tons of food when we are sure it will not be resumed, pillaging."

Speaking to reporters after his Security Council briefing, Mr. Egeland said he hoped soon to have enough security to open four humanitarian corridors to reach the most desperately needy regions of Haiti. But he cautioned that the appearance of calm in some places is deceiving.

"In Fort Liberte, I had a report that the prisoners that had been let out had taken over security in the town, as they called it, and that's not the way to do it, so we are now still in a security vacuum, and I would warn those who see the relative calm in many parts of the country as a sign that law and order has been restored, (things are) far from so," he said.

Mr. Egeland said even before the recent outbreak of violence, 40-percent of Haitians had no access to health care. He said schools remain closed, meaning that the school year is lost, meaning children will be out in the streets, adding to the instability.

After the briefing, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere welcomed the arrival of troops for the multinational Interim Force. About two thousand troops are on the ground, and some have begun joint foot patrols with Haitian troops.

The French ambassador, who holds the Security Council presidency, said an appeal would be made next week to raise cash for humanitarian aid. Mr. Egeland said an earlier consolidated appeal had yielded only 45-percent of what was needed in pledges, and one-third of that had not been collected as of the first of this year.