UN says 1.5 million people still homeless in Haiti

The UN's humanitarian chief acknowledged frustration yesterday with the slow progress in providing shelter to the 1.5 million Haitians still homeless because of the 12 January earthquake, and said a large amount of work needs to be done as the hurricane season bears down.

John Holmes told the Associated Press that the complex process of finding available land for transitional shelters, slow decision-making by the government and new waves of Haitians moving into homeless camps have made responding to the crisis particularly hard.

"We are a bit frustrated that it's taken so long," said Mr Holmes. "We've not been able to build many of these transitional shelters so far."

The hurricane season began last week and forecasters are predicting it will be an active one: a big storm could create misery for those still living under tarpaulins in flood zones.

"We have a lot of things to do and a lot of concerns and a lot of risks before we feel we're in a more comfortable situation," Mr Holmes said.

Complicating matters further is the influx of Haitians moving into homeless camps, which have swelled in size to 1.5 million. Haiti's government has provided another challenge to the process, Mr Holmes said. One major hurdle is getting approval to build semi-permanent shelters. Mr Holmes said he predicts it will be many more months before proper reconstruction can begin. "It has been an uphill struggle the whole way," he said.

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