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UN calls for more emergency supplies as tropical storm approaches Haiti

The approaching storm may be the third humanitarian crisis that Haiti faces this year, coming amid ongoing efforts to assist up to a million people left homeless by the earthquake that devastated the country in January, and a cholera outbreak that erupted last month, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).The UN’s agencies and its stabilization mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, have been working with the Government of Haiti and humanitarian partners to pre-position emergency supplies and equipment, including trucks, water and sanitation materials, shelter, food and non-food items in the areas most likely to be hit by the storm. “Even with the existing pre-positioned stocks, the potential magnitude of this disaster urgently calls for additional emergency supplies and equipment,” warned Nigel Fisher, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti. Priority needs include reinforced emergency shelter kits for 20,000 families, 80,000 family hygiene kits, 5,000 family water kits, 5 million sachets of oral rehydration salts, water tankers, water treatment units and field tents to serve as emergency cholera treatment centres, as well as logistics equipment and radios to support ongoing public information about cholera and hurricane alerts.The possible path of the storm keeps changing, but the latest update suggests a high probability of severe flooding, especially in coastal areas, but also throughout the country. Haitian authorities have been encouraging residents of low-lying coastal areas and camps to seek alternative shelter, where possible, with families and friends settled in safer places, according to OCHA. “We are concerned that severe flooding will make a difficult situation in Haiti even more difficult,” Mr. Fisher said. “Cholera is spread mainly through contaminated water – so more water poses more risks. The poor sanitary conditions in many parts of the country combined with flooding and polluted waters are very likely to accelerate the infection rate,” he added. A massive public information campaign has been rolled out to help people prepare, with alerts being sent out to internally displaced persons camps via SMS and radio. All available stocks of tarpaulins and ropes are being used to help people in camps secure their shelters.“We want to focus on social and economic recovery…but we are pulled back into emergency mode,” Mr. Fisher said. “We are calling on the international community to help us prepare as best as we can.” 4 November 2010Emergency supplies and equipment are still needed to prepare for the fast-approaching tropical storm Tomas, which could affect up to half a million people in Haiti, the United Nations said today. read more

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Mangala asserts Constitution does not give priests power to decide

“In a country with such a proud tradition of justice, where all citizens were once entitled to be considered innocent until proven guilty, people including a cabinet minister have been declared guilty without evidence, and the police have literally invited public complaints against these targeted four individuals in order to find them guilty of something – anything. Racists and xenophobes have hijacked our justice system and literally turned it upside down,” the Minister said in a statement today. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera today said that every elected and appointed official in Sri Lanka has sworn an oath to uphold and defend a Constitution that does not give power to politicians, priests or social media platforms to decide who is guilty or innocent of any crime, including terrorism.Samaraweera said that deciding who is guilty or innocent is a sacred duty left to the judges, after a police investigation and fair trial. He said that if former Minister Rishard Bathurdeen or anyone else has committed a crime, there is a process for a criminal investigation to commence, for evidence against them to be presented before courts and for justice to take its course. “If they are guilty, they should be punished. Especially in the current context, our police and security forces have unprecedented autonomy to investigate and prosecute anyone remotely connected to these attacks,” Samaraweera said.He said that never in the history of Sri Lanka have people first been declared guilty by the press and in Parliament, only to thereafter have the police call for evidence that they may have committed a crime. “Mark my words. Had he (Bathurdeen) supported Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament last year, there would not have been a no-confidence motion against him. He would not be called a terrorist. There would be a new target. Even today he is being cajoled to join the other side in exchange for the removal of his “terrorist label.” This is a man who served as a Cabinet Minister under them for almost a decade, who we are supposed to believe suddenly became a terrorist overnight after he stood by the UNP and by democracy,” the Finance Minister said. read more