Looters have broken into U.N. food warehouses in Haiti's crumbled capital, an official said Friday, as security and logistical challenges mounted for groups trying to feed at least 2 million people reeling from a devastating earthquake.
The U.N. World Food Program stressed that looting was normal in emergency situations, but spokeswoman Emilia Casella said the agency didn't know how much remained of its pre-quake stockpile of 15,000 tons of food aid in Port-au-Prince.
She noted that regular food stores in the capital also "have been cleaned out" by desperate Haitians since Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed thousands and left countless more buried under the rubble.
Distributing food and clean water to hungry and thirsty quake survivors is the top challenge of the early relief effort. Looting, bad roads, a ruined port, an overwhelmed Port-au-Prince airport and fears of violence meant most Haitians have received no help three days after the quake.
The U.N. was planning to ask governments later Friday for $550 million in humanitarian pledges for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.
"The physical destruction is so great that physically getting from point A to B with the supplies is not an easy task," Casella told a news conference. "Pictures can get out instantly ... and that's important because the world needs to know. But getting physically tons and tons of equipment and food and water is not as instant as Twitter or Skype or 24-hour television news."
The international community has already donated hundreds of millions of dollars and sent in the first of hundreds of doctors, engineers, soldiers and aid workers.
But the U.N. and others still hadn't figured out how to deliver assistance through broken roads and crumpled buildings, with little machinery to clear the mess. They are also contending with masses of people gathered in Port-au-Prince's streets, few working phones and a massive influx of goods and personnel without an organized plan.
Casella said her agency was working to collect enough ready-to-eat meals to feed 2 million Haitians for a month.
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