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UN peacekeepers bring in fresh water for Haitian orphans

“It is our way of being close to the people and showing them our solidarity,” Major Irantha Ranathunga of the Sri Lankan contingent of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said of the water delivery to the 105 girls and 55 boys at Santo 3 Karo Christian orphanage at Léogane. Yesterday’s delivery marked World Water Day but help from the UN’s Sri Lankan contingent, which is based nearby, comes on a regular basis. “We are happy to benefit from this regular support from the Sri Lankan soldiers every week,” the orphanage’s principal, Reverend Jean Claude Charlier, said. “In the whole area, there are wells but they don’t hold drinking water.” The water deliveries are just one small part of the humanitarian aid brought daily by MINUSTAH, set up in 2004 to help re-establish peace in the impoverished Caribbean country after an insurgency forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile. From helping to set up local municipal administrations to providing electricity, education and health services to restoring a library to laying out a football field, no task is too small or parochial for the UN peacekeepers as they try to make a difference for the people on the ground in one of the poorest countries on earth. As to water, UN World Health Organization (WHO) country representative Paulo Teixeira noted that while his agency recommends a daily supply for 50 litres per person, some people in Haiti do not even have access to eight litres a day. “In urban agglomerations water is badly distributed and in rural areas, people can find water but with great difficulty,” he said. One of the first actions of UN peacekeepers after they cleared out criminal gangs terrorizing one of the violence-ridden country’s most dangerous areas, the Cité Soleil neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, the capital, earlier this month was to ship in thousands of litres of clean water. 23 March 2007It may be a mere drop in the ocean, but for 160 children in a Haitian orphanage it meant much more when United Nations peacekeepers delivered 9,000 litres of clean, fresh water: it meant that they were not alone in the battle against poverty and the diseases brought by contaminated supplies.

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