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Clinton Rebuffs Criticism Of U.S. Aid To Haiti, Pledges Redoubling Of Efforts To Help Quake Survivors

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she resents criticism of the U.S. effort to help stricken Haiti and pledged to redouble efforts to help survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake,” the Associated Press/CBSNews.com reports. “I deeply resent those who attack our country, the generosity of our people and the leadership of our president in trying to respond to historically disastrous conditions after the earthquake,” she said.

Clinton also said the U.S. “civilian and military response” were “necessary in order to be able to deliver aid to the Haitians who desperately needed it” (1/26).

“The U.S. has over 4,700 ‘boots on the ground,’ … and another 10,700 service people on ships off Haiti, Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, commander of the U.S. military’s operations in Haiti, said [Tuesday]. The military is helping build a 5,000-bed post-surgical hospital for Haitians recovering from injuries, he said,” Bloomberg writes (Green/Dolmetsch, 1/26).

Also Tuesday, P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesperson, said the number of Americans who died in Haiti is approaching 100. “Crowley said the U.S. has confirmed 60 American deaths, and there are another 37 fatalities whose identities have not been established,” according to the AP/CBSNews.com (1/26).

Meanwhile Vice Adm. Alan Thompson, who leads the Defense Department’s logistics agency, “said that based on the informal guidance he’s received, his group should prepare to provide ‘intensive support’ for Haitian recovery operations for up to six months,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. Though Thompson said he was “not aware of any real detailed decisions,” he said, “the three- to six-month time period would be when there would be efforts to try to transition some of the support.” He added, “There is interest in obviously moving the follow-on support to potentially other organizations, and I think that is understandable” (Lubold, 1/26).

USA Today examines how the U.S. Navy ship Comfort is providing medical aid to Haitian earthquake survivors. “Patients board the hospital ship every day. More than six days into the Comfort’s mission here, more than 450 patients are on board – people who were crushed under rubble, who are sick with infections and nursing diseases made worse by neglect,” the newspaper writes (Sternberg, 1/26). Newsweek interviews optometrist Michael Radoiu, a captain in the Navy’s Medical Service Corps Reserve unit, who is one of 1,200 personnel on the USNS Comfort (Kalb, 1/26).

“Two top American officials say that medical assistance and food distribution are the biggest challenges the world faces as it reaches out to help Haiti recover from its massive earthquake,” according to VOA News. “In terms of food, the thing we are worried about is not so much the availability of food right now, it’s being able to overcome issues in distribution, that varies from place to place, roads, traffic, availability of trucks and so forth, all of this seems to get better every day,” Lewis Lucke, the State Department’s coordinator for relief and reconstruction, said (Ide, 1/26).

Aftershocks Add To Food Aid Distribution Challenges

“Vast crowds of Haitians massed around aid stations Tuesday, threatening to overwhelm emergency food handouts against a backdrop of new political and seismic aftershocks,” Agence France-Presse reports. On Tuesday, “Port-au-Prince was rattled by two new earth tremors … The US Geological Survey, which has warned the beleaguered Caribbean nation to expect tremors for the next month, measured the second tremor at 4.4,” AFP writes (Clark/Benoit, 1/26).

U.N. troops, who “tried to distribute rice and other food items,” launched “tear gas and warning shots” into the crowd “to prevent a mob from plundering aid supplies, witnesses said, underscoring the difficulties of getting enough aid to Haiti …,” the Wall Street Journal writes. “Nerves are frayed as displaced survivors spend days outdoors, worrying about continuing aftershocks and Wednesday’s forecast of rain, which could hasten the spread of disease. The Haitian government has appealed for emergency shipments of tents for the homeless, as many Haitians lack even tarps, sleeping under bedsheets or in the open,” according to the newspaper (Chon, 1/27).

“Elsewhere in the capital, civilians backed by U.S. and U.N. troops successfully delivered food to thousands of people, but aid workers said more troops are needed for crowd control if Haitians are to be fed in the coming days. … Aid organizers said the principal shortage was not food or trucks, but security. They said more U.S. troops or U.N. peacekeepers are needed to organize crowds and keep them in line until the food is distributed,” according to the Washington Post (Slevin/Booth, 1/27).

U.S. military officials said food aid was “taking a back-seat to the need for medical attention and shelter,” NPR’s “Morning Edition” reports. The piece looks at aid priorities in Haiti. “The rainy season begins in April, and [U.S. officials] want people to have some sort of roof over their head by then” (Burnett, 1/27).

News Outlets Focus On Health Issues, Aid To Women, Children

The Seattle Times examines the situation for Haiti’s amputees. “The images unveil a new mass population of amputees in a country where the able-bodied barely get by, where begging is the occupation of amputees, where the disabled are judged a burden, even a curse,” according to the newspaper. Healing Hands for Haiti Executive Director Eric Doubt “estimated Haiti had 800,000 disabled people, but no one has ever counted. ‘The handicapped are a huge burden for families and usually abandoned,” he said. “Government focus is zero. They are the bottom of the pile’” (Barry, 1/25).

The Wall Street Journal looks at the rebuilding plans for the world’s first AIDS clinic Gheskio, which “oversees more than half of Haiti’s AIDS patients.” The newspaper writes: “Gheskio’s fate holds profound ramifications for Haiti’s fragile health-care system. Public health care, weak and under-funded, depends on a handful of private institutions, including Gheskio and Partners in Health, which runs free clinics and hospitals in the rural central plateau.”

“After the quake, Dr. [Jean 'Bill'] Pape, [Gheskio's director,] said, hospitals didn’t know each other’s email addresses or what services each offered. So patients arrived at hospitals and were turned away. ‘It was complete chaos,’ he said. He said he is putting together an inter-hospital communication system and trying to coordinate efforts to stave off a typhoid plague that many fear will be the next crisis,” the newspaper writes (Dugan, 1/27).

Now, two weeks after the earthquake, “a wave of new infections and injuries has emerged, further taxing the nation’s shattered health care system,” the Boston Globe reports in an article about the latest health threats in Port-au-Prince. “Patients whose wounds were treated in the chaotic days following the quake are now returning with deep infections, the legacy of squalid conditions that make it impossible to keep open sores clean. … Disease trackers from Haiti and other nations, including the United States, are so concerned about secondary health threats in the aftermath of the earthquake that this week they are going neighborhood to neighborhood to assess the state of water and sanitation, housing, and health” (Smith, 1/27).

The chaos and destruction from the earthquake has had a distinct effect on women and children in the area, according to several news reports.

Before the earthquake, “the impoverished Caribbean nation had the highest rate of maternal mortality in the western hemisphere – 670 deaths per 100,000 births,” AFP reports. “The UNFPA is trying to get basic ‘reproductive health kits’ containing a plastic sheet, a sterile blade to cut the umbilical cord and a clean string to tie it, plus a blanket for the newborn, to pregnant women in Haiti.” Jemilah Mahmood, of the UNFPA, said, “Around 7,000 women are expected to give birth in affected areas over the next month, with another 1,000 expected miscarriages” (Onians, 1/26). Al Jazeera has a video report exploring the earthquake’s effect on maternal health (1/26).

In response to the situation, the director of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said that as the agency distributes food aid, it is prioritizing women, RIA Novosti reports. “Josette Sheeran, who has recently returned from Haiti, said the move was in order to provide the most vulnerable with access to food as when things go out of control at distribution points, women and children are generally pushed aside” (1/26).

The New York Times looks at the challenges facing children in the aftermath of the quake. “Haiti’s children, 45 percent of the population, are among the most disoriented and vulnerable of the survivors of the earthquake. By the many tens of thousands, they have lost their parents, their homes, their schools and their bearings. They have sustained head injuries and undergone amputations. They have slept on the street, foraged for food and suffered nightmares,” the publication writes. The article quotes UNICEF spokesperson Kent Page, who said, “There are health concerns, malnutrition concerns, psychosocial issues and, of course, we are concerned that unaccompanied children will be exploited by unscrupulous people who may wish to traffic them for adoption, for the sex trade or for domestic servitude” (Sontag, 1/26).

According to the AP/New York Times, “UNICEF, has established a special tent camp for girls and boys separated from their parents in the Jan. 12 quake, and who are in danger of falling prey to child traffickers and other abusers. The Connecticut-based Save the Children has set up ‘Child Spaces’ in 13 makeshift settlements. The Red Cross and other groups are working to reunite families and get children into orphanages” (1/26).