The United Nations on Friday honoured more than 200,000 Haitians who perished in the devastating earthquake that struck the French-speaking Caribbean country 10 years ago.
In a solemn ceremony of remembrance at UN headquarters in New York, the global organisation also honoured 102 staffers who died in the earthquake on January 12, 2010.
The UN said the death of its staffers was “the single greatest loss of life” in its history.
“I will never forget the shock and sadness across the world.”— UN Secretary-General António Guterres
At the wreath-laying on Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Haitians had been starting a new year with optimism, but “in a few seconds, their hopes turned to dust.
“I will never forget the shock and sadness across the world and throughout the United Nations as the scale of the tragedy became clear,” he said.
Guterres said although January 12, 2010 was “one of the darkest days in its history,” Haiti “drew on the courage and determination of its people and the assistance of its many friends.
“Roads were cleared, homes were rebuilt, schools were reopened, businesses got back to work,” he said.
The UN chief took a moment in his speech to reflect on several aspects of the UN’s effort in Haiti that had caused more harm than good, recalling the cholera epidemic that began in 2010, widely believed to have been imported by peacekeepers.
“Among the many challenges, the United Nations deeply regrets the loss of life and suffering caused by the cholera epidemic. I welcome the significant progress that has been made towards eliminating the disease.
“We are also committed to resolving pending cases of sexual exploitation and abuse”, Guterres said, noting the lack of progress in terms of Haiti’s economic, political and social development. He said that “a crisis of leadership” in recent months has thrown the nation into turmoil.