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Aid Flow To Haiti Improves As Seaport Opens, Airport Volume Dramatically Increases

Nine days after a major earthquake struck, “deeply needed aid streamed into Haiti’s ravaged capital in quantities that relief agencies said is a clear sign of progress,” the Miami Herald reports. Roads have been cleared, additional food and water distribution points are available and some new medical clinics are open.

“The U.S. military increased the capacity of the airport from 30 planes daily before the quake to 130, and three new airfields opened. The Port-au-Prince seaport, battered in the quake, opened for limited deliveries. Some relief agencies began shifting their focus to long-term relief and reconstruction,” the newspaper writes (Burch et al., 1/21).

“The port should be able to handle as many as 250 containers a day starting [Friday], when a commercial ship is to arrive,” the Los Angeles Times writes. “Seaborne shipments are expected to dramatically increase the quantities of goods and equipment for the relief and recovery effort,” according to the newspaper, which describes doctors’ efforts to treat injured patients (Kraft/Elligwood, 1/22).

On Thursday, Fritz Longchamp, chief of staff to Haitian President Rene Preval, said the government plans to move 400,000 homeless people to new dwellings on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the Associated Press/Houston Chronicle reports. “They are going to be going to places where they will have at least some adequate facilities,” Longchamp said. “The announcement came as search-and-rescue teams packed their dogs and gear Thursday, with hopes almost gone of finding any more alive in the ruins” (Faul/Lush, 1/22).

According to the Wall Street Journal, “By Thursday, nine days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, some rescue teams had flown home, and the Haitian government was expected to call off the rescues soon. The United Nations said 121 people have been pulled from the rubble by international teams, and that efforts were continuing. But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at a news conference with former President Bill Clinton, said the U.N. is moving to the early recovery phase and thinking about how to rebuild.” The article examines rescue operations and how long people typically survive without food and water (Mathews, 1/22).

From the Telegraph: Elisabeth Byrs, a U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson, said, “The rescue teams are concentrating more and more on humanitarian aid for those who need it.” The article looks at the effort to resettle homeless people. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said at least 500,000 people – higher than the Haitian government’s number – were living in temporary camps. “The situation is in flux and there is no one size fits all for shelter solutions,” said Vincent Houver, the IOM chief of mission. “Tents will not work in May when the long rainy season begins and later when hurricane season starts” (1/22).

The Economist examines the response to the earthquake and looks at why the delivery of aid was slow initially. According to the magazine, “the main reason” why aid was slow to arrive, “was that the earthquake knocked out both the institutions and the sinews of transport and communication on which aid agencies normally rely. So co-ordination – deciding who does what where – has been unusually slow and difficult. The rapid influx of well-meaning aid agencies that now throng the dusty remnants of Port-au-Prince has contributed to the confusion” (1/21).

News Outlets Examine U.S. Aid, Response To Haiti

The Hill examines the U.S. response to the Haitian earthquake. “Lawmakers are wholeheartedly supporting a sustained effort to assist Haiti despite concerns of how the international community may view the U.S. presence in the nation,” the Hill writes, noting that U.S. personnel assisting in Haiti will number 16,000 by the end of the week. U.S. presence in the country raises questions because of a “U.S. history of militarily occupying Haiti and intervening in the country’s domestic political affairs at various times,” according to the newspaper. The article includes quotes Republican and Democratic lawmakers and President Barack Obama (Yager, 1/21).

CongressDaily reports: “The Senate approved legislation Thursday allowing donations made by March 1 to the Haiti earthquake-relief effort to be itemized as deductions on 2009 income tax returns. The House passed the bill Wednesday, and President Obama is expected to sign it by the end of the week” (1/22).

In an article examining the amount of money the U.S. has spent to facilitate disaster response, the Wall Street Journal writes that the “Obama administration has already spent more than $170 million in disaster relief for Haiti, significantly more than the $100 million the White House pledged in the days following the earthquake, and is expected to spend millions more in the coming weeks, according to U.S. officials.” The article notes a recent list from the Associated Press, which shows that “foreign governments have pledged about $1 billion in aid … with the U.S. and Canada by far the leading contributors” (Spiegel, 1/22).

The New York Times focuses on the Obama administration’s response to Haiti. “[A]s part of a remarkable public relations campaign, the White House released a three-page ‘ticktock,’ a newspaper term of art for a minute-by-minute reconstruction of how momentous events unfolded. The release included a link to a Flickr photo of a meeting … as well as a list of foreign leaders [Obama] had telephoned.”

According to the newspaper, “The ticktock was one of a torrent of news releases, briefings, fact sheets and statements that flowed out of the White House in the days after the earthquake, a media campaign that illustrates two truths about the Obama administration: its deftness at catering to a nonstop, Internet- and cable-television-driven news cycle, and its determination to project competence and resolve in dealing with a heartbreaking tragedy …” (Landler/Cooper, 1/22).

Health-Related Stories

The media continued to report on the health implications of the earthquake in Haiti. Summaries appear below.

  • On Thursday, Jon Andrus, PAHO’s deputy director, highlighted typhoid, diarrheal diseases and malnutrition as some of the health risks that could emerge while displaced Haitians lack access to clean water and resettle, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Right now we’re totally focused on finding and treating and supporting the survivors there on the ground, but in the weeks and months to come, we will need to be very proactive on emerging risks,” Andrus said (McKay, 1/22).
  • Reuters examines earthquake survivors’ living conditions and the potential health risks they pose. The article focuses on conditions at the Champs de Mars park, which has become an impromptu settlement. “Sanitary conditions in tent cities … are worsening by the day as hundreds of thousands of survivors of last week’s earthquake cram together to eat, sleep, wash and defecate” (Bremer, 1/21). NPR also looks at how Haiti’s homeless are living (Beaubien, 1/22).
  • Inter Press Service reports on the rising price of food. “The price of food staples such as beans, flour, and pasta have skyrocketed since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, leaving millions homeless and hungry. … As the prices of goods continue to surge, tonnes of food aid remains in gridlock at the airport, victim of the Haitian government’s ineptness. Almost one week after the earthquake, the majority of people in dire need of food and water have not received any” (Pierre-Pierre, 1/21).