The United Nations has issued an urgent appeal to wealthy nations for an additional $59 million to help hurricane-ravaged Haiti and Grenada. U.N. peacekeeping troops sent to the region earlier this year are being pressed into service to distribute aid and prevent looting.
As he launched a flash appeal for additional aid for Grenada and Haiti, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland described a picture of almost unprecedented devastation.
"It's so bad in those two regions that many other hurricane-affected societies in the Caribbean have asked us to concentrate on Grenada and Haiti, saying they will try to cope on their own, given the total devastation of those two places," he said.
Mr. Egeland says the money, $32 million for Haiti and $27 million for Grenada, is needed immediately. "All of this money, we needed yesterday, really. But beyond this humanitarian money for food, medicine, etcetera, we need security in western Haiti," he said.
Mr. Egeland said many of the 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers sent to Haiti in June to restore order are being used to distribute aid, and to stop the looting of emergency food supplies. He noted that the peacekeeping force is at less than half its authorized strength because of a shortage of available troops. He said in Haiti's hardest-hit Gonaives region, the peacekeepers face a severe challenge from desperate women trying to feed their starving families.
"It's heartbreaking to see that the food we have distributed has then been looted by the mothers and grandmothers, who have then carried it back to their homes, their children and grandchildren. Peacekeepers are trying to get some degree of law and order in the Gonaives area, but we still have very serious security problems," he said.
The U.N. relief coordinator said he is encouraged that the United States pledged an additional $50 million in aid for the Caribbean this week. The European Union has offered an additional $10 million. He also hailed the generosity of other countries in the region that have donated food, medicines and whatever else they could offer.
Local authorities say the confirmed storm-related death toll is more than 1,500. Another 900 are missing and presumed dead.