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Haitian Aid Strained As Violence Rises

From a surprisingly non-judgmental New York Times:


Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises

By GINGER THOMPSON and DAMIEN CAVE

January 17, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — As the focus on Saturday turned away from Haitians lost to those trying to survive, a sprawling assembly of international officials and aid workers struggled to fix a troubled relief effort after Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.

While countries and relief agencies showered aid on Haiti, only a small part of it was reaching increasingly desperate Haitians without food, water or shelter. “We see all the commotion, but we still have nothing to drink,” said Joel Querette, 23, a college student camped out in a park. “The trucks are going by.”

Hunger drove many to swarm places where food was being given out. Reports of isolated looting and violence intensified as night approached, and there were reports of Haitians streaming out of the capital.

Still, recovery and aid efforts were widening. And even the distribution problems in the country stemmed in part from good intentions, aid officials said: Countries around the world were responding to Haiti’s call for help as never before. And they are flooding the country with supplies and relief workers that its collapsed infrastructure and nonfunctioning government are in no position to handle

But with Haitian officials relying so heavily on the United States, the United Nations and many different aid groups, coordination was posing a critical challenge. An airport hobbled by only one suitable runway, a ruined port whose main pier splintered into the ocean, roads blocked by rubble, widespread fuel shortages and a lack of drivers to move the aid into the city are compounding the problems.

About 1,700 people camped on the grass in front of the prime minister’s office compound in the Pétionville neighborhood, pleading for biscuits and water-purification tablets distributed by aid groups. A sign on one fallen building in Nazon, one of many hillside communities destroyed by the quake, read: “Welcome U.S. Marines. We need help. Dead Bodies Inside!”

Haitian officials said the bodies of tens of thousands of victims had already been recovered and that hundreds of thousands of people were living on the streets. A preliminary Red Cross estimate put the total number of affected people at 3.5 million…

Even as the United States took a leading role in aid efforts, some aid officials were describing misplaced priorities, accusing United States officials of focusing their efforts on getting their people and troops installed and lifting their citizens out. Under agreement with Haiti, the United States is now managing air traffic control at the airport, helicopters are flying relief missions from warships off the coast and 9,000 to 10,000 troops are expected to arrive by Monday to help with the relief effort.

The World Food Program finally was able to land flights of food, medicine and water on Saturday, after failing on Thursday and Friday, an official with the agency said. Those flights had been diverted so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.

“There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti,” said Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the agency’s Haiti effort. “But most of those flights are for the United States military.

He added: “Their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed. We have got to get those priorities in sync.”

In a notice over the weekend, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said priority would be given to search and rescue, military and humanitarian aircraft, in that order. Flights were being routed through a command center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and pilots must tell controllers what they have on board and when they would like to arrive…

The United States Agency for International Development was helping choose sites and clear roads for 14 centers for the distribution of food and water. Rajiv Shah, the agency’s administrator, said the United States had moved $48 million of food supplies from Texas since the quake and distributed 600,000 packaged meals. It has also installed three water-purification systems capable of purifying 100,000 liters a day.

Yet problems remain. American officials said that 180 tons of relief supplies had been delivered to the airport, but much was still waiting for delivery. While the military has cleared other landing sites for helicopters around the capital, they are thronged by people looking for help, making landings hazardous.

Fuel shortages were mounting. At several gas stations around Port-au-Prince, attendants or customers said that even though the stations had fuel left in their tanks, there was no electricity to work the pumps.

Some aid workers were critical of the United Nations, as well, arguing that the agency had the most on-the-ground experience in Haiti and should be directing efforts better.

But many United Nations employees were killed in the earthquake. And Stephanie Bunker, the spokeswoman for the United Nations humanitarian relief effort, said Saturday that a United Nations logistics team was trying to coordinate with other agencies, and that the peacekeeping forces were trying to clear roads.

Criticism of the United Nations “may reflect people’s frustrations with the entire effort because it is such a grueling effort,” she said. “It takes a long time for all this stuff to be cleared up and fixed.” She noted that all modes of transportation — air, road and sea — were still limited. A shortage of trucks remained a problem.

Michel Chancy, appointed by Mr. Préval to coordinate relief, said that much of the aid to Haiti was coming to a government that was itself under siege.

“The palace fell,” he said. “Ministries fell. And not only that, the homes of many ministers fell. The police were not coming to work. Relief agencies collapsed. The U.N. collapsed. It was hard to get ourselves in a place where we could help others.” …

“We’re all going crazy,” said Nan Buzard, senior director of international response and programs for the American Red Cross. “You don’t have any kind of orderly distributions of food, water, shelter, clothing. The planes are in the air, the materials are purchased. It remains a profoundly frustrating situation for everyone.”

Apparently, Haiti isn’t much a concern to readers of the New York Times.

As of this hour there is only one story about Haiti on their list of 25 most popular (emailed) stories. And it is an editorial about re-thinking our approach to global poverty by the house ‘conservative’ David Brooks.

And it’s only at #11 out of 25.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, January 17th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

6 Responses to “Haitian Aid Strained As Violence Rises”

  1. JohnMG says:

    …..”Even as the United States took a leading role in aid efforts, some aid officials were describing misplaced priorities, accusing United States officials of focusing their efforts on getting their people and troops installed and lifting their citizens out……”

    Well, that pretty much says it all. The most capable nation on earth, shouldering the greatest share of the responsibility, and, no doubt, the greatest part of the expense, is still fair game for a bunch of unappreciative miscreants.

    Well, here’s my solution. Set fire to the while friggin’ place and stand back until the conflagration goes out! As an added bonus, the AIDS epidemic would be solved, too.

    I’m tired of my tax money going to a whole host of ingrates. Let Hugo Chavez and the Castros fix it. Where’s Kin Jong Il-diot and Achmadinnerjacket? Let’s get the real shakers and movers involved, why don’t we?

    I think my head is about to explode. Aughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

  2. Liberals Demise says:

    This is a direct effect that Cuba is running the show since being there first before everyone else. Mr Castro is sending every available Med Team he can scrape together and the check is in the mail.
    Isn’t that so Railguy, Ocoee, Podpoet……..

  3. Rusty Shackleford says:


    “We see all the commotion, but we still have nothing to drink,” said Joel Querette, 23, a college student camped out in a park. “The trucks are going by.”

    Reports of isolated looting and violence….

    roads blocked by rubble, widespread fuel shortages and a lack of drivers to move the aid into the city are compounding the problems.

    Hm, sounds like NO.

    “But most of those flights are for the United States military.

    even though the stations had fuel left in their tanks, there was no electricity to work the pumps.

    “You don’t have any kind of orderly distributions of food, water, shelter, clothing. The planes are in the air, the materials are purchased. It remains a profoundly frustrating situation for everyone.”

    B-b-but Obama worked his magic…it was to be handled so much better than Booooosh. I thought that with Captain Obama at the helm, none of these logistical nightmares could possibly happen. He’s sooooo much better at it than….than…that other guy who let people die in NO for republican reasons, right? I mean, right?

    Oh, that’s it, he “invited” former president Bush to help out. That must be where the problem is. The part that Bush was in charge of.

    Yes, I know, I’m politicizing the whole thing. It sounds as ridiculous as it did when the Katrina fiasco reared its ugly head.

    I’m fully aware that this would be a logistical challenge, in understated terms. These things are never “textbook”. They are difficult and people are doing their best. They all want to help but coordinating is very important. There is, and always will be this type of difficulty when these things happen.

  4. proreason says:

    “Apparently, Haiti isn’t much a concern to readers of the New York Times”

    There you go again, Steve. You know, I’ll bet you don’t even have a crisp crease in your pant leg.

    New Yorkers, OBVIOUSLY, recognize the enormous dip in CO2 generation that the problems in Haiti have caused, and because they are educated and nuanced in their thinking about the entire world, they want to sieze the CO2 reduction opportunity before it slips away.

    And besides, Cuba is all over the recovery effort in Haiti. Cuba will have the whole situation completely under control in a day or so.

  5. U NO HOO says:

    I make a motion that Haitians immigrate to Quebec. They already know the language.

    Or Louisiana.

  6. sandztorm says:

    Take over Haiti, and rename Port Au Prince, “New Ninth Ward”. Then set up a military base. Next time we have to bail them out, we will already be there…. just saying…


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