Earthquake Deals Devastating Blow To U.N.

The window to find survivors in the rubble is slowly closing — but there was at least one success story today. An Estonian man was pulled from the collapsed U.N. headquarters. Still, nearly 200 U.N. workers remain unaccounted for, with 36 confirmed dead. The earthquake has dealt a devastating blow to the U.N., which has been a crucial player in helping Haiti overcome its many other troubles.

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As rescue efforts in Haiti continued throughout the day, there was at least one success story. An Estonian man was pulled from the collapsed U.N. headquarters. Still, nearly 200 U.N. workers remain unaccounted for with 36 confirmed dead. The earthquake has dealt a devastating blow to the U.N., which has been a crucial player in helping Haiti overcome its many other troubles.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says a 38-year-old bodyguard from Estonia was pulled out from more than 12 feet of rubble.

Mr. BAN KI-MOON (Secretary General, United Nation): It was a small miracle during a night which brought few other miracles.

KELEMEN: Ban has sent one of his top aides to take charge at the U.N. mission in Haiti and help oversee relief efforts.

Mr. KI-MOON: Haiti will need every ounce of help we can offer.

KELEMEN: A former U.N. advisor for Haiti, Johanna Mendelson Forman, says U.N. peacekeepers are still able to do their basic job of providing law and order, but this earthquake was a serious blow.

Ms. JOHANNA MENDELSON FORMAN (Former United Nations Advisor for Haiti): The ultimate goal was to have gotten out by 2011. Under the circumstances in this recent tragedy, my sense is that the U.N. will be there for a long time.

KELEMEN: Now at the Center for a Strategic and International Studies, she said the U.N. mission in Haiti had a lot of successes in recent years, not just going after gangs in Cite Soleil, but also promoting both security and development.

Ms. FORMAN: The kidnapping rates have gone down. The business community feels more stable. And that's what the tragedy of this is, is that everybody was looking at a 2010 that was going to have a much more significant investment future, a greater opportunity for jobs. And now all of that is up in doubt because of the tremendous damage the city has sustained as well as the country.

KELEMEN: This U.N. mission started in 2004 and Latin-American countries have taken the lead. When the earthquake struck, there were more than 9,000 peacekeepers and nearly 500 international civilian officials in Haiti. The Brazilian commander of MINUSTAH, as the U.N. force is known, was out of country, but came back with U.S. help, according to Cheryl Mills, who run a Haiti taskforce here at the State Department.

Ms. CHERYL MILLS (Counselor, Department of State): One of the things that are grateful for is that we have the commander from MINUSTAH back in Haiti now and is able to actually deploy his teams in a way that actually reminds the civilians that are there that we actually have the support and capacity to be able to help.

KELEMEN: Once this rescue mission turns to rebuilding one, Mills says, she hopes that the investors who had shown interest in Haiti before the earthquake will realize that their support is needed more than ever.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

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