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Earthquake-Shattered Haiti Still Needs Emergency Assistance

United Nations aid agencies are urging the international community not to forget Haiti's humanitarian needs, while shifting focus to the overwhelming need to rebuild that earthquake-shattered country.  The appeal is being made on the eve of a U.N. conference seeking $11.5 billion to reconstruct Haiti's infrastructure over the next 10 years.  

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs does not dispute the urgent need to rebuild the thousands of homes and buildings, the roads, bridges and other infrastructure that were damaged and destroyed by the massive earthquake.

But OCHA spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, says it is important to remember that Haiti is still in an emergency phase and continues to need humanitarian assistance.  

She says many people are still living in temporary shelters, which do not provide enough protection from the rains, which have begun.  She says sturdier housing will be needed to protect them during the hurricane season, which is looming.  

Byrs says the U.N. appeal for $1.4 billion for humanitarian assistance is only 48 percent covered.  She says contributions have stagnated and key sectors such as agriculture, camp management, shelter material, education, and food are not sufficiently funded.

The World Food Program agrees that support for humanitarian programs must run parallel to reconstruction aid.  Spokeswoman Emilia Casella says the organization is starting to move from the emergency phase to a longer-term food security strategy.  

"That would include safety nets for the most vulnerable people in the country, boosting local agriculture and supporting local markets," she said. "And, the target population would be about two million people for that.  We are going to begin in April blanket supplementary feeding for all children under age five in affected communities and as the schools are beginning to open, also school feeding will be rolled out for all of the schools that re-open."  

Casella says the World Food Program is also launching cash and food for work projects to support agricultural rehabilitation.  In addition, she says the agency is pre-positioning food, trucks and other life-saving supplies in advance of the hurricane season.

The U.N. Children's Fund stresses the importance of ensuring children, young people and their families are at the center of all rebuilding efforts.  

UNICEF notes about 40 percent of the population is under age 15.  It says even before the earthquake struck, the needs of many Haitian children were not met.  UNICEF says their needs are more acute now and must not be neglected.

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