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UN relief agency estimates 18 million Haitians have been affected by Hurricane

Initial data collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) showed Hurricane Sandy, which ploughed through the Caribbean country before hitting the eastern coast of the United States, killed 60 people and significantly damaged critical infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals in addition to destroying thousands of homes.“Floodwater had been receding since Sunday but more than 18,000 homes have been flooded, damaged or destroyed,” an OCHA spokesperson, Jens Laerke, told reporters in Geneva, adding that food security remains a main concern as the country is now struggling with the combined impact of hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, which hit in August, as well as drought.Preliminary data estimated that food security had been severely affected, Mr. Laerke said, with up to two million people at risk of malnutrition. In addition to food insecurity, OCHA said it is concerned about the nearly 350,000 people that are still living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of a devastating earthquake which hit the country in January 2010. Mr. Laerke noted that while most vulnerable IDPs in camps that had been evacuated before the storm have returned home, some 1,500 people remain in 15 hurricane shelters.Because of the impact of the hurricane, OCHA said it is now considering an emergency revision of the Consolidated Appeal (CAP) to accommodate increased needs.During the same briefing, a spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported that access to health services and restocking supplies was limited as rivers had become impassable and roads had been obstructed. It also warned that poor sanitary conditions could increase the risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera, which is still endemic in the country.The WHO spokesperson said there has already been an increase in cholera alerts, especially in the south, and added that field teams are monitoring the situation closely. WHO is also working with the Government in the area to ensure that health supplies could be delivered to treatment centres that had been damaged by strong winds and flooding, he added.Cuba was also severely affected by the hurricane, OCHA’s Mr. Laemke said, with power cuts affecting more than 890,000 people and nearly 200,000 homes damaged by the storm.In addition, 375 health centres and several hospitals were damaged, as were 2,100 schools. Crops have been damaged and remote communities are cut off because of road and bridge damage. UN humanitarian agencies are working closely with national and local authorities, donors and emergency organizations to support national efforts. An emergency cash grant of $100,000 has been approved and a request for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund is under preparation. Launched in 2006 and managed by OCHA, CERF enables the fast delivery of life-saving assistance to people affected by natural disasters and other crises worldwide. It is funded by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organizations, regional governments, the private sector and individual donors. read more

Full OFT approval for Motor Codes Service and Repair

Motor Codes has received full OFT approval for its Service and Repair Code, meaning that subscribing garages can now display the OFT logo alongside the Motor Codes tick, to further reassure motorists.Three years on from the inception of the Service and Repair Code, developed following the effectiveness of the OFT-approved New Car Code in reducing consumer complaints, this endorsement demonstrates continued confidence in the self-regulation consumer codes model.Underlining the importance of this backing, Colin Brown, Director of Consumer Policy at OFT, describes the move as, “one of the most important developments in consumer protection in car service and repair for many years.”A sentiment echoed by Chris Mason, Motor Codes Managing Director, “The Service and Repair Code was introduced at the request of government to deal with its continued prominence in complaint statistics and set out to improve standards and raise consumer confidence.  This announcement sends a clear message that we offer a comprehensively backed code of practice and our network of garages delivers real peace of mind for the consumer.”Consumer feedback is central to the Motor Codes operation and each customer is encouraged to rate the quality of service received – visible online to potential garage customers.  This open, customer-facing review system was a key factor in fulfilling OFT requirements.“Motor Codes has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and scrutiny amongst its members, making it simpler for motorists to make an informed choice”, added Colin Brown.To date, in excess of 25,000 motorists have submitted reviews, all visible on the Motor Codes website.Standards for Motor Codes garages are upheld through a combination of regular RAC Compliance Checks and the support of a structured advice and conciliation service, with a team of independent customer service professionals on hand to offer advice both to motorists and garages.  Where things do go wrong, a three stage intermediary process, consisting of Fast Track resolution, conciliation and legally biding arbitration is implemented to administer a fair solution for all parties.Emphasising the effectiveness of this service and its value to businesses and customers, of all conciliation cases to date in 2011, over 30% have been resolved as Fast Track – meaning that solutions are brokered swiftly, while a customer’s car is still in the garage.Further information about Motor Codes and its codes of practice can be found at www.motorcodes.co.uk. Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more