January 18 (AP)
The U.N. mission in Haiti wants 2,000 additional troops and 1,500 extra police to provide military escorts for aid convoys and ensure that desperately needed food and water is distributed to earthquake victims without any violence, U.N. officials said Monday.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council the U.N. needs to strengthen its current Haiti force, which has 7,000 military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police, to deal with the increasing demands on the world body following last week’s earthquake.
The Security Council must lift the current ceiling for the force, and U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said he expects a U.S.-draft resolution to be unanimously approved on Tuesday.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said the extra soldiers are essential because of the “tremendous” number of requests to escort humanitarian convoys.
“We are stretched,” he told reporters, saying the U.N. World Food Program alone is bringing in 60,000 tons of food quickly which must get to over 200 distribution points.
Le Roy said the U.N. also needs extra troops to secure the routes the convoys will be using, and for “a reserve force” in case the security situation deteriorates further.
The neighboring Dominican Republic has already offered an 800-strong battalion which will deploy later this week to secure the road from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican border, the only land bridge outside the battered country, he said.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to send an unspecified number of police.
“We have to act very quickly and very strongly,” Araud said.
Le Roy cited the often unruly crowds at points where food and water is being distributed. He said the extra U.N. police officers will also help the Haitian police who are returning to the streets in “limited numbers.”
As part of the police request, Le Roy said, the U.N. will also be seeking forensic experts and about 100 additional corrections officers to establish detention facilities once Haitian police arrest some of the 4,000 prisoners who escaped from the main prison in Port-au-Prince when it collapsed during the Jan. 12 quake.