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Obama Announces $100M In Aid For Haitian Earthquake Recovery

At the White House on Thursday, President Barack Obama “promised $100 million along with more American troops for the relief effort in Haiti, vowing that the United States would stand with the impoverished nation as it grappled with the devastation of its capital city,” the New York Times reports. According to the newspaper, Obama “said the financial aid was only a first installment and would grow over the coming year. ‘Help is arriving,’ he said. ‘Much, much more help is on the way’” (Cooper, 1/14).

The aid pledge “will mean more of the life-saving equipment, food, water and medicine that will be needed,” according to Obama, Roll Call reports (Koffler, 1/14).

According to VOA News, “Obama told key members of his national security team that Haiti must be a top priority for the U.S. government” (Buel, 1/14). “By Monday, as many as 5,500 soldiers and Marines will be on the ground in Haiti or aboard ships offshore, according to the Pentagon,” USA Today writes (Dilanian, 1/14).

On Thursday “Obama also enlisted former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to coordinate and raise money for relief efforts,” Politico reports (Lee, 1/15). Bush and Clinton issued a joint statement that said: “In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people,” according to the Associated Press/Boston Globe (1/15).

The Hill’s “Blog Briefing Room” reports that U.S. aid for the Haitian earthquake could be tacked on to $33 billion war supplemental package, a “key House aide” said on Thursday. The aide said, “The supplemental could include some Haiti aid should the administration request it” (Fabian, 1/14).

Meanwhile the Washington Post examines how Rajiv Shah, the new USAID administrator, has been dealing with the situation. According to the newspaper he “has wowed the White House and State Department, with top officials in both places praising his steady leadership and command of the evolving operations in Port-au-Prince” (Rucker, 1/15).

A second Washington Post article looks at how the earthquake could affect future U.S.-Haiti relations. “The devastating earthquake came just as the Caribbean nation had finally achieved a measure of political stability … and as the Obama administration was preparing to announce new policies that it hoped would win broad consensus on how to build on those tentative achievements,” the Washington Post writes (Kessler, 1/15).

Crumbled Infrastructure Makes Aid Efforts Slow To Reach Victims

On the disaster response front, “[h]elp was excruciatingly slow to arrive for many survivors despite a massive international aid effort that began to show signs of progress,” USA Today reports. “The international Red Cross estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in the quake Tuesday, based on information from the Haitian Red Cross and government officials,” the newspaper writes. “Hundreds of bodies were stacked outside the city morgue … A few workers were able to free people who had been trapped under the rubble for days, but others attended to the grim task of using bulldozers to transport loads of bodies,” according to USA Today (Bello/Revehl/Winter, 1/15).

The Wall Street Journal writes: “A demolished seaport, a congested one-runway airport, a shattered communications system, and even questions about how to coordinate the multi-national relief effort delayed the delivery of aid to an increasingly desperate Haiti and highlighted the immense obstacles that lie ahead.” The article outlines the logistical challenges that are slowing the delivery of aid (Pasztor et al., 1/14).

CNN reports that Haiti’s Ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Joseph said, “There is one big problem … The aid is coming now and getting to the Port-au-Prince airport. And it’s not getting out, because of the road system.” Also Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the situation unfolding is “a major humanitarian disaster.” The article discusses the challenges after the earthquake and looks at the response from other world leaders, international agencies and countries (1/14).

“Amid looting of United Nations and other food stocks in Haiti, international relief agencies struggled Friday to find alternative routes for aid in the face of survivors’ angry criticism that no help was getting through, threatening them with a second catastrophe after Tuesday’s earthquake,” the New York Times writes in an article focusing on aid delivery difficulties and the international response (Cowell/Robbins, 1/15).

“Although some foreign medical crews quickly set up field hospitals for Haitians injured in Tuesday’s earthquake … some of the more visible international rescue efforts seemed focused on foreign victims,” the Los Angeles Times reports. The newspaper writes that an American rescue crew first focused on the U.N. headquarters and “next went to the Hotel Montana, a nexus for the international community in Port-au-Prince. Most Haitians saw none of this. For the poor, the desperate, the bereaved, there was little help. The Haitian government, for the most part, was a no-show” (Mozingo/Wilkinson, 1/15).

Paul Farmer, U.N. deputy special envoy to Haiti, said, “It’s really a logistics nightmare. … Implementation is the hardest part: getting the stuff to the people who really need it,” the Los Angeles Times’s blog, “La Plaza,” reports. According to the newspaper, UNICEF’s “growing accumulation of emergency supplies –tents, tarpaulins, blankets, medical kits, water purification tablets and rehydration salts –” were returned to Panama after its first cargo plane was unable to land in Haiti.

Though the U.N. World Food Program started giving out food rations, “[i]t was a trickle of what the agency anticipates will be a flood of foodstuffs to sustain as many as 2 million people for an initial six-month period. The United Nations Population Fund is gathering medicine and health kits to help pregnant women safely deliver babies as Haitian medical facilities remain in shambles” (Weiss, 1/14).

News Outlets Continue To Examine Public Health Impact In Wake Of Haitian Earthquake

Other news outlets continued covering the immediate and projected effects on public health in Haiti. Summaries of articles appear below:

  • “In Haiti, average life expectancy is 53, three-quarters of women give birth without a health attendant, diarrheal illnesses are the second-leading cause of death and 30% of children younger than 5 have stunted growth. And that was before Tuesday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake,” the Los Angeles Times writes.

“This time, emergency medical responders will have to provide much more than the usual food, water, latrines and bandages to stop the spread of disease, said Dr. Christina Catlett, associate director for health preparedness at the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response in Baltimore. They’ll also have to create a public health system on the fly.” The article includes quotes from several public health experts who discuss the health challenges facing the country (Roan, 1/15).

  • According to Newsweek, “with regard to health care [in Haiti], there wasn’t much to destroy in the first place. Even before the quake hit the capital, leaving its hospitals ‘abandoned or destroyed’ the country’s medical infrastructure was in shambles.” The article, which looks at the earthquakes affect of the country’s health system, continues: “Some aid workers believe that good will improbably arise from Haiti’s disaster because the quake will present an opportunity to rebuild the country’s institutions, including its health-care system, stronger than they were before” (Carmichael, 1/14).
  • Bloomberg reports on how the earthquake “crushed the country’s fragile infrastructure for health care and clean water and may trigger widespread outbreaks of life-threatening diarrhea, measles and malaria.” The news service writes, “Haiti has long suffered the highest rates of malnutrition and lack of access to basic medical services in the Western Hemisphere, according to the WHO … Disease outbreaks may be worse than in the aftermaths of comparable natural disasters because the crisis has wiped out the country’s health infrastructure, said Thomas Kirsch, director of operations at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s department of emergency medicine in Baltimore” (Randall/Tirrell/Cortez, 1/15).