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UN chief warns aid 'fatigue' in hurricane-hit Haiti; Elections delayed
By Amelie BARON
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Oct 16, 2016

Delayed Haiti elections to go ahead November 20
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Oct 14, 2016 - Haiti, whose long-overdue presidential elections were further delayed when Hurricane Matthew ravaged the island nation killing hundreds and causing massive destruction, will vote on November 20, officials said Friday.

Haitians had been due to head to the polls last week, but the elections, in which voters will cast ballots for both presidential and legislative candidates, were postponed due to the havoc.

At least 473 people were killed when Matthew crashed ashore on October 4 as a monster Category Four storm, packing winds of 145 miles (230 kilometers) per hour.

The impoverished Caribbean nation's last elections, in 2015, were canceled amid violence and massive fraud, leaving the country stranded in political limbo ever since.

The president of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, Leopold Berlanger, said Friday that a new attempt to vote would take place on November 20, with a second round planned for January 29.

Haiti has been immersed in a political crisis since the first round of presidential elections on October 25, 2015, drew opposition protests and election authorities concluded there had been mass fraud, annulling the results.

Since then, there have been multiple abortive attempts to hold the election.

The latest cancellation comes as more than 175,500 hurricane-battered Haitians are living in temporary shelters, with at least 1.4 million people in need of emergency assistance, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Faced with widespread destruction in the southern half of the country, Haiti's electoral council is struggling to find sites capable of hosting voting centers.

"If the council is responsible for putting on an election for the citizens, it cannot... carry that out where there are problems," Berlanger said.

"The election must be for all people, especially when it's a presidential election," he said during a press conference.

Some 30 percent of buildings previously used as polling centers had been partially damaged or destroyed in the areas of the country that were hard-hit by the hurricane.

Many secondary roads "are still damaged, blocked by water and fallen trees, and these are the roads we need for bringing in election materials," he said.

- Overdue replacement -

Presidential candidates are vying to take over from Haiti's last leader, Michel Martelly, who left office in February without a replacement.

Parliament in the meantime elected interim president Jocelerme Privert, although his 120-day mandate technically expired in June.

Privert surveyed the damage in southern Haiti after the hurricane and declared three days of national morning.

Many of the citizens in the south have not only lost their homes and agricultural livelihoods, but also their national identification cards which are essential for voting.

Haiti's interior ministry has opened two telephone lines to help facilitate new cards for those whose were lost, between now and the end of October.

Amid the ongoing political turmoil, Haitians were already grappling with chronic poverty and a number of major public health issues.

The Americas' poorest nation -- home to 11 million people -- has been struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that has left thousands still living in tents.

Cholera has killed more than 10,000 people and affected some 700,000 since an outbreak in 2010, with 500 new cases reported every week.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced distress Saturday at the "absolute devastation" caused by a deadly hurricane in Haiti, and disappointment at scant emergency aid reaching the struggling nation.

"I am disappointed by the response of the international community. I sincerely hope and I urge the major donors to lend their helpful hand," Ban said at Port-au-Prince airport following a helicopter overflight of the hard-hit southern regions.

Haiti is only just emerging from the devastating aftermath of a January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. The international aid that poured in at the time, poorly coordinated, became a major fiasco, with only a fraction of the funds reaching the victims of the catastrophe.

"I know there is some fatigue from certain countries, but the current situation, the current disaster that hit this country through Hurricane Matthew is beyond description," Ban said during a joint press conference with interim president Jocelerme Privert.

At least 546 people were killed, and more than 175,000 people have lost their homes.

Ban said Monday that a "massive response" was needed to cope with the destruction, with 1.4 million people in need of urgent assistance after towns and villages were almost wiped off the map.

The United Nations has launched a flash appeal for $120 million to help Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, cope with its worst humanitarian crisis since a devastating 2010 earthquake.

But so far, only about 12 percent of the needed funds has been raised to help stave off famine and serious health crises, including cholera.

- 'Very, very sad' -

Privert, the interim leader, called for long-term support from allies.

"There will always be hurricanes, there will always be catastrophes. We need concrete actions to mitigate the damage from the next hurricanes that have not hit yet," Privert said.

Earlier, Ban visited Les Cayes, one of the worst affected by Hurricane Matthew when it crashed ashore on October 4, packing winds of 145 miles (230 kilometers) per hour.

"I was very, very sad when we saw the complete devastation. But people the world over stand with you," the UN chief said, speaking in French.

"The United Nations stands by your side. We will mobilize all resources to help you."

The streets have been cleaned. The branches and tree trunks form massive heaps on the sidewalks. Businesses have reopened.

Ban was warmly received at Philippe Guerrier high school, where more than 500 people are still huddled. He spoke with a young man who was wounded, before telling the displaced: "kembe fem" in Creole ("hang in there").

"We have been told to leave because school has to start again, but we don't have anywhere to go," said Aivi Jean-Bar.

"They bring us a bit to eat and drink, but that's not what we need. What we want to know is where we can go to sleep," the 36-year-old woman sheltering at the school with her four children told AFP.

- Cholera on the rise -

In addition to the destruction of countless homes and farms, Haitians in the worst-affected areas are dealing with a lack of potable water, which is contributing to the spread of disease.

Haiti has been plagued for half a dozen years by cholera, which has claimed close to 10,000 lives, despite extensive efforts to combat it

The malady was brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, who were helping in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Officials have seen evidence of a new spike in cholera cases, which prompted the World Health Organization last week to announce it was sending an additional one million doses of vaccine to Haiti.

The UN Security Council, meanwhile, agreed earlier this week to extend MINUSTAH's stay until April of next year to help combat the myriad crises in the aftermath of Matthew.

The hurricane also prompted election officials to push back already delayed presidential and legislative elections until November 20.

The elections are a do-over after an earlier vote had to be annulled because of violence and massive fraud.

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