Tags: haiti | aid | backlog | hunger | clinton | bush | obama

Haiti Gets Trickle, Food Dumped from Helicopters

Sunday, 17 Jan 2010 09:36 PM

By Voice of America

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U.S. officials say a trickle of international aid is reaching earthquake survivors in Haiti, but humanitarian needs far outpace delivery capabilities due to impassable roads, limited airlift capacity, and other challenges in the wake of last week's catastrophe. Meanwhile, anger and lawlessness have escalated in Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities, as desperation grows.

Hunger, thirst, agony and heartbreak have formed a toxic emotional backdrop to Haiti's humanitarian disaster. Nations around the world are sending aid and personnel to Haiti, but nearly one week after the devastating quake struck, only limited quantities of life-saving food and water are reaching a destitute populace.

The United States has launched a massive military and civilian relief operation for Haiti that is working to overcome a host of logistical challenges and obstacles. The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, spoke on ABC's "This Week" program.

"We are talking about 3.5 million people in need. We are talking about a significant degradation of what was already relatively weak infrastructure [in Haiti]. No port access, roads are difficult to get around. So what we are now doing is putting in place military assets. The [U.S.] aircraft carrier arrived this week. It has 19 helicopters, and a lot of the transport of commodities and supplies is through helicopters. We are getting more and more out each day," he said.

More than a dozen locales in and around Port-au-Prince have been tapped as aid centers. Massive crowds materialize whenever shipments arrive. In some cases, supplies have been parceled out with relative calm and order. But confrontations between aid-seekers and security personnel have also occurred, and, in some instances, delivery helicopters have been forced to leave prematurely, or drop supplies from the air.

"The way they dump the food from helicopters is awful. Most people here do not get any food. People start fighting, banging heads and breaking bones. It is complete disorder," said one survivor.

Meanwhile, coordinating the arrival of massive quantities of aid and personnel from around the world to Port-au-Prince's small and damaged international airport has also proved challenging.

U.S. President Barack Obama has tapped two of his predecessors, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, to lead a private fundraising effort to assist and rebuild Haiti. Both appeared on ABC's "This Week".

"I think we should care [about Haiti] from a humanitarian perspective, and I also think from a strategic perspective, because it makes sense to have a stable democracy in our neighborhood," he said.

Bill Clinton said, beyond food, water, medicine and shelter, Haitians must be provided with accurate information to weather the catastrophe.

"I find people are angrier and more destructive - not because they are in trouble - but because they do not know what is going on. They do not understand. The more people understand what is happening to them, the more they can endure the long-term process of rebuilding," he said.

In the midst of the disaster, many Haitians paused Sunday for worship in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation.

"I pray for myself and for my country, and especially for those who are suffering and under the rubble," he said.

Haitian authorities say tens-of-thousands of corpses have been buried in mass graves, and that the final death toll could reach 200,000.

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