The United Nations said on Saturday that it was working to support rescue and relief efforts in Haiti following a powerful earthquake that reportedly left hundreds dead, with perhaps even more injured and missing, and caused massive damage in the south-western part of the country.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said that he is closely following the latest unfolding tragedy in Haiti, while the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that its teams already on the ground are making assessments to prioritize urgent needs and provide assistance to affected populations in the wake of the 7.2 magnitude quake that has reportedly killed more than 200 people.
“My heart goes out to all affected by the earthquake,” said Guterres on Twitter. “My deepest condolences to all who have lost family and friends.”
UNICEF said the quake was felt in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, but the epicenter was detected in the southern parts of the French-speaking Caribbean country.
Serious damage, injuries and casualties are reported in the Grande Anse, Sud and Sud-Est department, said UNICEF in a statement.
According to reports, the latest earthquake, similar in magnitude to the 2010 quake that devastated the country and left hundreds of thousands of people dead and displaced, has toppled churches and schools, and severely curtailed electricity in the affected areas.
“We are deeply saddened by the reports of casualties and heavy damage following the earthquake earlier today in Haiti,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, who added that the agency stands in solidarity with families and children in the wake of the disaster.
He said that UNICEF is working with government and non-government partners to provide support to affected communities, with the agency warning that children and families may have been displaced as a result of the earthquake and could be in urgent need of shelter, clean water, medical care and protection.
UNICEF Chief, Henrietta Fore said on Twitter that she was deeply saddened by the unfolding tragedy.
“Today and in the coming days, UNICEF will be working closely with our partners to reach affected children and families,” she tweeted.
The UN noted that the earthquake struck as a tropical storm bares down on the Caribbean region, and with Haiti itself facing a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and still coping with the assassination last month of President Jovenel Moise.
“Our thoughts are with the people of Haiti following the devastating earthquake,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed in a Twitter post, where she also stressed that the UN “is committed to delivering in solidarity with you.”
Separately, Collen Vixen Kelapile, president of the UN Economic and Social Council, said the “people of Haiti are in our thoughts at this difficult time.”
He added that the Council’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti will keep working to promote the long-term development of the country, referring to the body created to provide advice and promote socioeconomic recovery, reconstruction and stability in the country.