|Children in New Orleans eat food rations given out by the US National Guard in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.|
NEW YORK, 6 September 2005 – A United Nations offer to contribute to the aid effort for survivors of Hurricane Katrina has been accepted by the United States government. Key UN staff have been deployed to help U.S. authorities coordinate the international relief effort.
“The United States itself has been very generous in other people's crises,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC in an interview on Monday night. “And this is why I think it's important that we, the United Nations, and other countries return the favour, now that they are in need.”
"Our hearts go out to all the victims of this tragedy, especially the children," UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said on Friday.
"After many years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and six months travelling the world with UNICEF, I have seen a lot of disaster areas, including areas hit by the tsunami," she said. "This looks as bad as any natural disaster I've ever seen."
|© REUTERS/Carlos Barria|
|A young survivor of Hurricane Katrina is carried by her father at the Astrodome stadium in Houston, Texas.|
US acceptance of the UN offer of assistance
Last week, Ms. Veneman had been in touch with senior U.S. officials and said that UNICEF – along with the rest of the United Nations – was exploring how it might help. UNICEF keeps a variety of pre-packed emergency supplies in its global supply hubs and a list of these items was forwarded to U.S. relief officials.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that the UN has mobilized three interagency teams to work on logistics and coordination in conjunction with United States authorities, having been informed on 3 September of the United States’ acceptance of the UN’s offer of assistance.
Additional deployments may occur within the next few days, given the United States’ decision to establish a larger interagency assistance hub in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a forward aid distribution centre in Kessla, near New Orleans, OCHA said in a statement.
At present, a United Nations interagency liaison team is based in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Hurricane Katrina Operations Center in Arlington, Virginia. The other teams will be deployed in support of USAID/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), at the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Regional Coordination Centers in Texas and Georgia.
The interagency teams fielded in Texas and Georgia are comprised of representatives from the World Food Programme (WFP), Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as support teams from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)/United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) network.
In order to coordinate its response, the United Nations assembled an interagency task force on 2 September, chaired by OCHA, and composed of representatives from UNICEF, WHO, WFP, UNHCR, UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
6 September 2005:
Gerry Dyer, Chief of UNICEF’s Humanitarian Response Unit, discusses how children have been affected by Hurricane Katrina.