Progress in Haiti Should Be Media's Priority: U.N. official

Media critics who say that humanitarian progress in Haiti is too slow should take note of the massive scale of the relief operation, a top U.N. official said yesterday.

"It is very easy for example to be interviewed and asked the difficult question 'why aren't you doing more?'" said U.N .Humanitarian Coordinator Kim Bolduc.

"It is very important to remind everyone that seldom in our history have we seen such a sizeable type of operation set up within days of the emergency," she added.

"Everything that has been achieved has been achieved at great sacrifice for people who are still standing in the field and running the operations."

Bolduc, who arrived in Haiti one and a half months prior to the Jan. 12, took temporary control of the U.N.'s operations in Haiti in the quake's immediate aftermath.

"We had to simultaneously take care of search and rescue operations while helping the Government in collecting the dead bodies out in the streets, and also to immediately try to organize relief support to provide food, water and medical care for all the people who were devastated by the earthquake," she said, recalling the experience.

Responding to criticisms that relief efforts have been too slow, Bolduc said: "If you think about the number of people affected – three million people in a country like Haiti where the centre of the capacity – the capital – has been destroyed, managing after five or six weeks to feed over two million people is an accomplishment."

According to U.N. reports, 2.9 million quake survivors have received food assistance since the Jan. 12 disaster, with aid agencies planning supplementary distributions to hospitals, orphanages, community kitchens and those displaced in encampments.

No outbreaks of disease have been reported, although shelter and sanitation needs continue to be urgent as the raining season begins.

Meanwhile, death tolls from the Jan. 12 earthquake continue to rise with current estimates at over 220,000 people.

Regarding reconstruction efforts, officials have estimated that the project will take $14 billion and over ten years to complete.

An international meeting on coordinating Haiti's reconstruction is scheduled to be held in New York in March.

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