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UN Official Critical of Haiti Earthquake Response


The U.N.'s top humanitarian official has criticized U.N. agencies for their response to last month's devastating earthquake in Haiti.

In an e-mail sent to his colleagues, and first published Thursday by the journal "Foreign Policy," U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said that while much has been achieved, there are many unmet humanitarian needs in Haiti, particularly in terms of shelter and sanitation.

He said failure to meet those needs could lead to unrest in Haiti.

Holmes focuses his criticism on the "cluster" strategy for addressing humanitarian emergencies in which agencies are assigned to address specific needs such as shelter or food. There are 12 such clusters in Haiti.

In his e-mail, he says a lack of coordination within these clusters has affected the relief response and it is beginning to hurt the U.N.'s image.

Later Thursday, Holmes is scheduled to join U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton to announce the launch of a revised financial appeal for Haiti, to see it through the rest of 2010.

Holmes' office confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail, but told the Reuters news agency it was never intended to be made public.

On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised about $447 million in aid to Haiti over the next two years to help rebuild the earthquake-ravaged country. The package includes the cancellation of about $77 million in debt.

Mr. Sarkozy's trip was the first visit by a French president to the former colony, which defeated France in a slave revolt and declared independence more than two centuries ago.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. Even before the quake, the government was struggling to recover from tropical storms that wiped out 15 percent of its economic output in 2008.

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