UN peacekeepers must stay in hurricane-hit Haiti: envoy

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The UN peacekeeping force in Haiti must stay for another six months to help the Caribbean nation cope with the humanitarian crisis from Hurricane Matthew, the UN envoy said Tuesday.

Sandra Honore told the Security Council ahead of a vote on renewing the mission's mandate that damage from the hurricane was extensive, potentially affecting Haiti's stability.

"There can be no doubt: this is a humanitarian tragedy and an acute emergency situation with 1.4 million persons in need of immediate assistance," Honore said.

A presidential election scheduled for October 9 was postponed as well as partial senatorial votes and legislative reruns as Haiti struggles to recover.

"The impact of Hurricane Matthew on the political process and on the stability in the country can only serve to reconfirm the recommendation of the secretary-general for a six-month extension," said Honore.

The council is to vote on Thursday on extending the MINUSTAH mission until April next year.

Council members however said plans for a drawdown of the force, which currently stands at 6,000, must not remain on hold for too long.

A strategic review is to be completed over the coming six months on a full pull-out of the mission, which could be replaced by a smaller UN presence.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that a massive international response was needed to help Haiti as the United Nations launched a $120 million flash appeal for the next three months.

Hurricane Matthew killed at least 473 people in Haiti, according to a provisional count from authorities, with more feared dead as rescuers reach the hardest-hit areas.

The envoy said the health impact of the disaster cannot be overestimated, with water and sanitation infrastructure severely damaged, causing a high level of diseases including cholera.

Matthew crashed ashore on Haiti's southern coast on October 4 as a monster Category 4 storm, packing winds of 145 miles (230 kilometers) per hour.