UN chief's message of hope to desperate Haitians

THE United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an emotional tour of his staff's devastated headquarters in Haiti yesterday and met with earthquake survivors desperate for food and shelter.

The UN chief told them not to give up hope as international aid workers scrambled to deliver help.

"I am here with a message of hope that help is on the way," Mr Ban told a group of men and boys who gathered in front of the severely damaged National Palace in the capital Port au Prince and shouted that they needed food, water and work.

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He said he had three priorities in Haiti: saving as many lives as possible, stepping up humanitarian assistance and ensuring the co-ordination of the huge amount of aid coming into the country.

"We should not waste even a single item, a dollar," he said.

Mr Ban said the UN was feeding 40,000 people, and expected that figure to rise to two million within a month.

The Secretary-General also said he was "very touched and grateful" for the outpouring of aid from other countries around the world.

His first stop was at the collapsed UN mission headquarters in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where rescuers worked feverishly to rescue a Danish employee from the rubble. Staffers accompanying the UN chief wiped away tears as they viewed the destruction and mourned their dead and missing colleagues.

About 15 minutes after Mr Ban left, emergency workers successfully pulled the man, named as Jens Christensen, from the building. He was talking, was given some water and was taken to a hospital, UN staffers said.

Mr Ban's Boeing 737 jet was met by the acting chief of the UN peacekeeping mission, Edmond Mulet, who was sent in immediately after the quake to replace mission chief Hedi Annabi.

Mr Annabi was buried in the rubble along with many others when the headquarters collapsed in Tuesday's magnitude-7.0 quake. His body was found on Saturday and was to be flown back to the US on Ban's return flight. Hundreds of others are missing, including more than 30 from the UN headquarters.

Mr Ban called the quake "one of the most serious humanitarian crises in decades".

He added: "The damage, destruction and loss of life are just overwhelming."

Meanwhile a United Nations worker was yesterday confirmed as the first Briton to have died in the Haiti earthquake, the Foreign Office said

Frederick Wooldridge, 41, from Kent, was killed on Tuesday. He had worked for the UN in Geneva and Liberia before moving to Haiti in 2007.

His family said he "loved" his work as a senior political affairs and planning officer on the island. His wife Teamar Melles had posted a photograph of her husband on a Facebook group for relatives of UN workers based in Haiti, asking for news.

There is still no news of another British UN worker missing in Haiti.

Relatives of Ann Barnes, 59, say they fear the worst as she has been unaccounted for since the earthquake hit on Tuesday.

A British member of one of the rescue teams scouring the shattered island for survivors said the chances of finding people alive would "fall massively" as the days went on.

Wiltshire firefighter Dan Cooke, working with a team from Rapid UK, said his team rescued two people on Saturday and two the day before. He said: "There are 1,700 rescue workers here and there is work for everyone, which gives some sense of the scale of what has happened."

The Department for International Development said 2m of the 6m in aid pledged by the UK Government would be spent on providing logistical support and communications to speed up the distribution of supplies.

Oxfam teams gave out water to thousands of people in the capital yesterday and aid workers from Concern Worldwide distributed 2,000 jerry cans and 100,000 water purification tablets.

A cargo plane chartered by humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger with 20 tonnes of aid aboard arrived in Port-au-Prince at noon on Saturday.

The DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal total now stands at 15m.

HOW TO MAKE A DONATION

Survivors of the earthquake are in desperate need of medical supplies as well as food, water and emergency shelter.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is taking donations through a special phone line, 0370 60 60 900, and through its website at www.dec.org.uk.

Donations can also be made over the counter at post offices and high-street banks.

The money will support DEC's 13 member agencies - Action Aid, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.