On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake which devastated Haiti, the United Nations is today remembering the disaster’s victims in memorial events in Port-au-Prince, New York and elsewhere around the world.
In the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, staff at the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is gathering for memorial events which include a formal ceremony and the unveiling of a monument in honour of UN staff members who were killed in the earthquake. The head of the UN’s peacekeeping operations, Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy, is attending these events.
At UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will take part in a wreath-laying ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, timed to coincide with the hour at which the earthquake struck – at 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday. Participants will be asked to solemnly observe silence for a period of 47 seconds, which was the duration of the earthquake.
With a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale, the earthquake killed over 200,000 people, injured more than 300,000 and displaced 2.3 million people – nearly one quarter of the country’s population. It levelled Haiti’s capital, delivered a severe blow to the economy and infrastructure, and impeded nation-building efforts in the country. In addition, 102 UN staff members perished, constituting the highest loss of life from a single event in United Nations history.
At the memorial ceremony in Port-au-Prince today, Mr. Le Roy will deliver a message on behalf of the Secretary-General. In that message, he is expected to call on the world to live up to the solidarity expressed in the wake of the earthquake, including at the Haiti Donors’ Conference last March.
He is also expected to pay particular tribute to the dedication of UN staff in Haiti who survived the earthquake and worked to save lives in the following hours and days, as well as the hundreds of other UN staff from duty stations around the world who responded immediately to the call for volunteers.
At the memorial event in New York, the Secretary-General is expected to pay tribute to UN staff who perished in the disaster as well as reaffirm the UN system’s commitment to assisting the people of Haiti to rebuild their country. In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson said that Mr. Ban noted that the UN and international response to “a disaster of unparalleled magnitude” was one of the largest ever mounted and that “these efforts must be redoubled and renewed.”
In the Middle East, peacekeepers at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today remembered the earthquake’s victims at a wreath-laying ceremony at UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura in southern Lebanon.
In the Balkans, staff at the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo took part in a ceremony observing 47 seconds of silence. Speaking at the event, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, expressed solidarity with the people of Haiti and all those who suffered losses.