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International aid efforts for Haiti gather pace

International efforts to help Haiti in the wake of Tuesday's earthquake are picking up speed, as governments around the world and aid agencies mobilise search and rescue teams and aid supplies.

While the full scale of the disaster has yet to emerge, it is clear it represents a huge challenge.

Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is still struggling to recover from devastating hurricanes in 2008.

So far, only a trickle of aid flights have arrived in Haiti, which needs all kinds of help - from search and rescue teams and medical aid, to food aid and then longer-term rebuilding of infrastructure.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said $10m would be released immediately from the world body's central emergency response fund to assist aid efforts. He said an emergency appeal for additional funds from member states would follow.

The UN World Food Programme - which already runs extensive feeding operations in the country - said it would begin distributing high energy biscuits, which require no preparation before being consumed.

The WFP also said it would airlift 86 metric tons of food from its emergency hub in El Salvador, enough for 30,000 people in urgent need to be fed for up to seven days.

"In a normal day the World Food Programme will be feeding one or two million people in Haiti - and now we need to do even more, because the people have lost everything," a spokeswoman said.

The UN stabilisation force in Haiti, Minustah, has said about 100 or more of its staff are still unaccounted for after buildings collapsed.

The Minustah mission has more than 9,000 police and troops stationed in Haiti, as well as 488 international civilian staff and local staff. Its forces are drawn from more than 40 countries, including Brazil, China and Pakistan.

Several Minustah nations have said they are preparing to send aid.

The UN has set up a logistics centre at Haiti's main airport.

Taken from BBC News (