A week after Haiti quake, aid for all is elusive
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – The world still can’t get enough food and water to the hungry and thirsty one week after an earthquake shattered Haiti’s capital. The airport remains a bottleneck, the port is a shambles. The Haitian government is invisible, nobody has taken firm charge, and the police have largely given up.
Even as U.S. troops landed in Seahawk helicopters Tuesday on the manicured lawn of the National Palace, the colossal efforts to help Haiti are proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster and the limitations of the world’s governments. Expectations exceeded what money, will and military might have been able to achieve so far in the face of unimaginable calamity.
“God has abandoned us! The foreigners have abandoned us!” yelled Micheline Ursulin, tearing at her hair as she rushed past a large pile of decaying bodies.
Those who survived the quake from the beginning but had lost their homes and possessions were growing desperate as they camped out in the streets and in a plaza across from the National Palace.
“We need so much. Food, clothes. We need everything. I don’t know whose responsibility it is, but they need to give us something soon,” said Sophia Eltime, a 29-year-old mother of two who has been living under a bedsheet with seven members of her extended family. She said she had not eaten yet Tuesday.
It is not just Haitians questioning why aid has been so slow for victims of one of the worst earthquakes in history: an estimated 200,000 dead, 250,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. Officials in France and Brazil and aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders have complained of bottlenecks, skewed priorities and a crippling lack of leadership and coordination.
Governments have pledged nearly $1 billion in aid, and thousands of tons of food and medical supplies have been shipped. But much remains trapped in warehouses, diverted to the neighboring Dominican Republic, or left hovering in the air. The nonfunctioning seaport and impassable roads make it even more difficult to get aid to the people.
Doctors Without Borders said a plane carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, had been turned away three times from the Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday night, resulting in the deaths of five patients.
“We were forced to buy a saw in the market to continue amputations,” coordinator Loris de Filippi said in a statement.
The U.S. Air Force said it had raised the airport’s daily capacity from 30 flights before the quake to 180 on Tuesday.