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Haiti Earthquake

Following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010, which resulted in some 220,000 deaths, over 250,000 buildings destroyed, affecting some three million people, of whom the Government estimates 1.7 million are now displaced - a major humanitarian operation has been ongoing for almost two months with distribution of aid, including water, food and medical supplies in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. Ongoing priorities include, shelter, camp management and sanitation.

Following the mobilization of a senior expert team on the ground, UNEP continues to engage in relief and recovery efforts through the provision of technical assistance and support on environmental matters to the Humanitarian Country Team and to the local government, including through emergency environmental assessments of affected sites and active participation in the humanitarian cluster system.

Field-based Rapid Environmental Assessments since 13 January to evaluate the impact of the disaster and forecast the impact of the relief effort, have identified a number of major environmental issues for the short and medium term, including tones of debris, increase in municipal and healthcare waste, damaged environmental infrastructure and governance, escalation of pressure on forests for energy and timber, geological and flood risk for rebuilt camps, the environmental impact of massive population displacement and the new “relief economy”, and green food and cash-for-work schemes.

Following an initial appeal for USD 575 million on 15 January, a revised flash appeal was launched by UN Special Envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton on 18 February. The total sum of the revised appeal is USD 1.44 billion, reportedly the highest ever. The environmental envelope, proposed by UNEP for a total of USD 6.35 million, for the expansion of the Technical Assistance Facility for Energy and Early Recovery, falls under the early recovery cluster.

A United Nations/World Bank/European Commission Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), which will help to define a recovery framework for the country, was initiated on 17 February, and will continue for three weeks. Within the assessment process, UNEP is the UN focal point for the stand-alone theme of environment, which will include the following issues - domestic energy, deforestation, erosion and soil loss; coastal and marine zone management; protected areas; watershed management; solid and liquid wastes; disaster reduction; and environmental governance. Findings from the PDNA will be published in a report to be presented at a Donor Conference on 31 March 2010 in New York.