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UN forces on standby for emergency relief as tropical storm Emily nears Haiti

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti – Nearly 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers are on emergency standby in Haiti as tropical storm Emily barrels towards the impoverished Caribbean country, which is still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others.

Some contingents of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which comprises 8,500 troops and 3,000 police, have already been deployed as a precautionary measure in regions that are most at risk from the storm, which is expected to hit the country overnight.

These forces are in position on the ground in Gonaïves and Les Cayes and on standby in Port-au-Prince should rescue operations be needed, and MINUSTAH has set up two crisis centres to coordinate action.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is coordinating all action that might be required from UN humanitarian agencies and their international and national partners. Food stocks, medical kits, cholera treatment kits, tents and tarpaulins have already been pre-positioned throughout the country in preparation for the hurricane season.

Last November, Hurricane Tomas caused widespread flooding, unleashing a cholera epidemic that killed hundreds and infected some 20,000 people.

MINUSTAH, which has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest, includes a contingent of 1,000 military engineers, whose work could be critical in the event of serious flooding.

The mission has already undertaken numerous measures to reduce the vulnerability of communities and enhance theirs means of response in the face of hurricanes, including the repair of damaged roads to facilitate access to flood zones for humanitarian convoys and the clearing of river courses to reduce the chances of flooding.

Damage in Haiti following the earthquake on January 12, 2010

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