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European police force headed for Haiti - 26/01/2010

Devastated buildings in Haiti © European Union - Photo by ECHO/Vicente Raimundo

At least 300 military police from the European Union are headed for Haiti to help maintain order in the quake-stricken country. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands will contribute to the force.

The EU will also provide engineers and equipment to clear roads and support efforts to deliver aid arriving by sea. Haiti’s main port was heavily damaged in the earthquake.

EU foreign ministers agreed to the deployment on Monday following a UN appeal for help with crowd control and aid distribution. The UN is coordinating the relief effort. The ministers also decided to set up an office in Brussels to coordinate military and security assistance.

Also Monday, about 20 countries and organisations, including the EU, met in Montreal to arrange an international donor conference and set priorities for rebuilding the country.

The EU has already offered more than €400m to Haiti. About half will be redirected from funds previously earmarked for the Caribbean nation.

Two weeks after the disaster, the relief effort has shifted to helping the desperate survivors. EU experts in Haiti report progress in tackling the logistical gridlocks that initially plagued relief efforts. But with hundreds of thousands homeless, shelter is a growing problem.

“The needs are mammoth, the organisation massive and the coordination colossal, but little by little things are coming together,” says Susana Perez Diaz of ECHO, the EU’s humanitarian aid department.

Nearly 700 EU experts are in Haiti, coordinating contributions of food, medicine, blankets, tents, water and fuel.

Meanwhile, fundraising for the victims is gaining momentum in Europe as around the world. In one example, France Telecom, the national phone company, is letting customers donate to the French Red Cross and two other charities via text messages for a month.

The EU has long been one of Haiti’s main donors. Last year it set aside €7m to combat malnutrition and child mortality and prepare the country for a humanitarian crisis or natural disaster.


More on EU humanitarian aid for Haiti

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