x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Princess Haya on a 'mercy mission'

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein arrives in Amman from Haiti along with 21 survivors from around the Middle East of the Caribbean island earthquake.

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, left, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, arrives in Haiti.
Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, left, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, arrives in Haiti.

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein arrived in Amman last night from Haiti along with 21 survivors from around the Middle East of the Caribbean island earthquake. The princess had flown to Port-au-Prince on Friday on what she described as a "mercy mission" of delivering aid and rescuing bereaved Arab families. "Dubai may be far away, but we join in reaching out to Haitian families who have lost so much and are struggling just now to survive," the princess said, according to the state news agency, WAM. "Yes, we need to deliver food, medicines and water today - fast. But we must stay committed to Haitians as they rebuild."

The UN messenger of peace and wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, had reached Port-au-Prince's Toussaint l'Ouverture International Airport shortly after 4pm on Friday, then toured the capital city, which lost more than one-third of its buildings during the quake of January 12. The princess's Boeing 747 was loaded with about 100 tonnes of food, stretchers, medicines and other supplies to help three million Haitians affected by the earthquake and bolster the nation's beleaguered UN peacekeeping mission.

After being lowered on to the runway in a cargo lift on Friday, the princess was met by peacekeeping chiefs and the head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), Josette Sheeran, who told her: "You're bringing hope." Her jet brought tents to supply 90 per cent of the WFP staff in Haiti who sleep under the stars. "Our people are living on the streets while they are saving this nation," Ms Sheeran said. "These tents will help protect their families while they continue to work for us."

The princess's convoy made a whistle-stop tour of Haiti's devastated capital and included a stop at the headquarters of the Jordanian contingent of Haiti's UN blue helmet operation. The 900 Jordanian soldiers and police are responsible for maintaining law and order in the capital's crime-torn slum, Cité Soleil, as part of a stabilisation mission that has been in the Caribbean nation since 2004. Three Jordanian peacekeepers - Major Atta Manasir, Major Asharf Jaiusi and Corp Raed Khawaldeh - were among those killed during the earthquake. "It is important to honour the peacekeeping troops from Jordan, and the ones from all the world that are here," said Princess Haya, the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan. "They work in all crises and hot spots and offer their lives for the good of the rest of us."

Before returning to Dubai, the plane collected families with origins in Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Syria who were living in Haiti when the disaster - and 12 successive aftershocks - struck. They include 12-year-old Cassandra Sperduto and her four-year-old sister, whose Syrian mother married a US citizen and decided to raise a family in the neighbourhood of Montagrier. "Dad died in the earthquake; he was working at the Caribbean supermarket", in which scores of people are believed to have died, Cassandra said. "My mum doesn't want to stay in the country any more so we're moving to Syria."

* The National