Agencies rush water to haiti

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Aid agencies and others are racing to get crucial water supplies to the earthquake-hit capital of Haiti, Port au Prince, as thirst emerges as a major additional threat in the aftermath of the disaster. Food, water and medicine are seen as key to ensuring the survival of the remainder of the city's population following the magnitude 7.0 quake, which is thought to have killed up to 200,000 people. Before the earthquake, however, less than half of Haitians had access to a domestic water supply and none of the country's cities had a wastewater system.

Most people in Port au Prince obtained water from public wells or tanker delivery, but the municipal pipeline supplying the city has been damaged and the treatment works is reported to be shut because the electricity supply is down.

Aid is coming from many different sources: the US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is able to produce treated water at a rate of 150,000 gallons per day (660,700 litres/day) using the vessel's onboard desalination system, and is gearing up to put its spare water into bladders for transport to shore.

UNICEF and Médecins Sans Frontières have also flown in medical supplies, oral rehydration salts for children with diarrhoea, water purification kits and drinking water. The Save the Children charity is also providing water purifiers. The Red Cross has said it will also concentrate much of its effort on providing clean water, which is critical in reducing the risk of waterborne and water-related diseases. Outlying areas are also in need - reports suggest that up to 90% of the town of Leogane has been destroyed.

A plane carrying 20 tonnes of water and sanitation equipment from Action Against Hunger has also arrived at Port au Prince. AAH also plans to restore the water distribution networks by repairing pipes and infrastructure. Convoy of Hope workers have installed two modified bio-sand filters at an orphanage in the capital city, where the children had been surviving on half a cup of water a day. Oxfam had existing water supplies in the country and has managed to get a number of large tanks into Port au Prince.

Visiting the area, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that emergency relief including food and water was essential. The UN has appealed for $562 million, with half of this sum to be targeted at health, water, sanitation, nutrition, early recovery, emergency education and other key needs.

UNICEF has also brought in plane-loads of water and sanitation supplies, as well as experts in water and sanitation. World Bank experts are also due to go to Haiti to conduct damage and reconstruction assessments in every major sector including water and sanitation.
UNICEF NZ Executive Director, Dennis McKinlay said: 'Providing access to clean water and sanitation is essential in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, to avoid a second wave of deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Children are particularly susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases. In this case, water saves lives. Water is a UNICEF priority and distribution has begun.'

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