Geneva: Accelerating the recovery of Haiti will be the "absolute priority" of UN aid agencies in 2011, the United Nations has said, a year after an earthquake that left 225,550 people dead and 2.3 million displaced.
"It is necessary to give a real push to accelerate recovery efforts. It would be the absolute priority for 2011," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said yesterday.
The process should take "months if not years" given the scale of the task that remains on the ground, Byrs acknowledged.
About 180,000 homes which were destroyed remain to be constructed, millions of tonnes of debris have to be removed and basic services re-established for hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
"With still 800,000 people in the camps, we should be realistic about the time necessary to rehouse everyone," said the UN spokeswoman.
The aid agencies yesterday also defended their management of the fallout of the unprecedented disaster.
"We had difficulties in the beginning as can be expected in such a situation," said Byrs, pointing out that in just a minute, the magnitude 7 earthquake had killed hundreds of thousands and wounded many more.
In the weeks that followed, shelter was provided to 1.5 million people while 4.3 million had also received food aid.
But the UN agencies also acknowledge that much remains to be done, notably in the race to halt a cholera outbreak that has already claimed 3,651 lives and left 171,304 ill since October.
Yesterday, the World Health Organisation warned that the outbreak had not peaked.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed concern about the overall situation in Haiti, noting that it "remains critical”.
"A comprehensive long-term plan needs to be put in place by the Haitian government, with the support of the international community, so that the state can provide durable solutions regarding access to basic services," she said in a statement.
"Without an overarching guiding plan, the many national and international temporary housing and reconstruction initiatives in place will be inadequately coordinated, and people will continue to be evicted from camps without adequate alternative solutions," she warned.