UN mourns its 85 dead in Haiti

2010-01-29 09:52

THE United Nations mission in Haiti yesterday honoured 85

peacekeepers, police and civilians who were killed in the earthquake.

The leader of the MINUSTAH stabilization forces, Edmond Mullet,

read a message sent by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to mourn the worst

losses to UN peacekeepers in history. The sombre commemoration, at a base used

by the Jordanian peacekeeping contingent, was attended by about 200 people, who

observed a moment of silence.

The January 12 quake left at least 170,000 people dead, according

to Haitian government estimates. Some 500,000 Haitians are now homeless in and

around the capital Port-au-Prince.

Ban called the deaths of UN mission participants one of the saddest

experiences of his life, as well as the most tragic event in Haiti’s already

difficult history.

The hotel that served as headquarters for the UN in Haiti collapsed

in the quake, killing three of the mission’s top officials and scores of

others.

About 30 people from the UN mission remain missing more than 16

days after the magnitude-7 earthquake.

Mullet’s voice wavered as he spoke during yesterday’s memorial. Many

members of the UN mission embraced and wept after the service.

A Haitian government representative in attendance emphasized the

UN’s long-running contribution, before the quake, to Haiti’s search for

stability and democracy.

In Washington, the US State Department voiced concerns that

children orphaned or separated from their families by the quake could be

vulnerable to sexual predators or involuntary servitude.

The United States is working with the Haitian government and United

Nations on the issue, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.

“A number of people, including many, many children, have been

displaced, separated from their families,” Crowley said. “This poses great risk

and particularly for children (who have) a higher vulnerability to human

trafficking.”

He said that US officials “have seen a couple of cases” of child

traffickers and paedophiles “in recent days.”

In Haiti, the UN’s children’s aid arm, UNICEF, was registering

children who were lost or whose parents were dead or unaccounted for.

In Davos, Switzerland, former US president Bill Clinton was at the

World Economic Forum to help bring attention to Haiti’s plight.

Amid debates on the Davos sidelines about the need to rethink how

to deliver assistance in emergencies, Clinton took centre stage to call for more

donations to the earthquake-stricken country, which was already the poorest in

the western hemisphere before the latest disaster.

“This is devastating for the people of Haiti,” Clinton said. “But

this is a chance to escape the past and build a better tomorrow.”

German broadcaster Sat1 said yesterday that the Haitian national

football team will play a March 7 fundraising game for earthquake relief in

Augsburg, Germany. The match was to be contested against a German all-star team

led by former national captain Lothar Matthaeus.

“All proceeds will go to Haiti,” Sat1 managing director Andreas

Bartl said.


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