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Haitian envoy: No contact with ministers since quake

By Tom Evans, CNN
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Child trafficking in disasters
  • Haitian ambassador to U.S.: No contact with government ministers since quake
  • Urgent need for heavy lifting equipment, ambassador says
  • Ambassador urges continued restraint by Haitian population during crisis
  • Haitian children separated from families at risk of falling prey to trafficking, UNICEF chief says

(CNN) -- The Haitian ambassador to the U.S. said Thursday he has not been able to contact a single minister in his government since Tuesday's devastating earthquake in his country.

Ambassador Raymond Joseph told CNN's Christiane Amanpour, "I have had contacts with some officials that are government officials, but not at the level of ministers."

"And I understand that some people that used to work with us may have been killed in the collapse of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," he added.

Joseph's remarks indicate a huge scale of damage in the government's infrastructure in the capital Port-au-Prince after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

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Joseph appealed for help from the international rescue teams arriving in Haiti, and he emphasized the importance of getting heavy lifting equipment to the worst affected areas.

"We would like them to move out from just around Port-au-Prince and try to find others in southern parts of the city who are trapped in the debris and see whether we can rescue them."

He said Haitians have shown remarkable restraint so far. "I wish they continue to maintain their restraint and work in their community-type organizations to help those who are in need and not to take advantage of the situation."

The executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ann Veneman, told Amanpour that conditions in Haiti were dire even before this week's earthquake. "Fifty percent of the children don't go to school, children are living in poverty, people don't have access to basic services", she said.

"Only about a third of the population has access to clean water under normal circumstances and now in the emergency, food, clean water, access is so critical to these populations to allow them to survive."

Veneman also had a grim warning about the risks to children in the aftermath of the disaster.

"We'll be working on the protection of children to make sure those children who may have been separated from their families are identified and aren't being allowed to move, because you worry about the trafficking of children."

"It's in these emergency circumstances where a child could be plucked off the street and trafficked or taken away", she added. "And so one of the things we advocate for is to make sure that children are identified, that they're put in a safe place, and then people begin to track their family members so they cannot simply disappear from the scene."