Despite Improvements, Aid Delivery Bottlenecks Persist In Haiti

Three weeks after a major earthquake struck Haiti, challenges in getting aid to those in need persist, the Washington Post reports. “Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the relief effort has escalated in recent days and will continue to do so. Emergency food aid has been provided to more than a million people in and around Port-au-Prince, but 2 million people are estimated to need such assistance, he said. At least 70,000 out of an estimated 240,000 to 300,000 families that lost their homes have received plastic sheeting, tents or other shelter materials from U.N. programs, nonprofit groups or the Haitian government, he said,” according to the Washington Post.

Speaking at a State Department news conference, Shah cited sanitation and the clearing of rubble as ongoing challenges, adding, “We are in an emergency-relief situation, and we will continue to be in an emergency-relief situation for many weeks to come” (Sheridan, 2/2).

Shah also said new jobs that aim to get Haitians involved in rebuilding efforts are “very important for both creating space to build latrines and also creating sites where people can settle in a more effective and sustainable way,” the Christian Science Monitor reports in an article about “cash for work” programs.

According to the newspaper, “So far the U.S., working with the Haitian government, has created 5,600 jobs. But that number grows to more than 50,000 when the efforts of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and several private relief organizations are added in. … The ‘cash for work’ programs are one of the best ways to feed families over the course of a natural-disaster relief effort, assistance experts say, because the programs put decision-making back with families and reactivates local markets” (LaFranchi, 2/2).

Also on the ground, U.N. World Food Program (WFP) spokesperson Marcus Prior said food aid had reached 850,000 people in Haiti, Xinhua/China Daily reports. After the start of a campaign to deliver food to women, the agency distributed food to 112,000 people on the first day, Prior said. He said 14 sites were open on Tuesday, up from 12 the day before (2/3).

But aid still isn’t reaching everyone, according to the Associated Press/New York Times. “Many foreign aid workers and Haitians say ample donations are arriving, but express frustration at the slow pace of distribution of food and medicine from Port-au-Prince’s port, airport and a warehouse in its sprawling Cite-Soleil slum,” according to the news service.

“Boxes of supplies are stacked to the ceiling in the dimly lit warehouse of the capital’s hospital. In another storage area, medicine, bandages and other key supplies pile up on tables – watched over by a Haitian health worker who scrawls in a notebook, ticking off everything that comes in and out. Doctors say since locals took over the supply room, crucial time to save lives has been lost filling out unnecessary forms,” the news service writes. The article examines some of the logistical challenges that are slowing aid delivery (2/3).

USA Today examines past U.S. aid efforts in Haiti and looks at how this might figure into rebuilding. “Those planning the rebuilding say a new way of dispensing aid is needed in Haiti. It starts with a clear-eyed view of what has gone wrong, says Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mills visited Haiti routinely before the earthquake, helping to craft a new aid strategy that her boss says now will be the starting point for Haiti reconstruction. ‘We didn’t have a model that was sustainable,’ Mills says of previous aid efforts. ‘A lot of our assistance was channeled through (private aid groups) and contractors. There was no clear strategy for how you might ultimately transfer capacity to the Haitian government and the Haitian people, putting the nation on a more sustainable path.'” The article includes quotes from scholars and aid experts (Dilanian, 2/3).   

Child Vaccination Campaign Launched

Medical teams launched a vaccination campaign on Tuesday with the goal of protecting a few hundred thousand children against measles, tetanus and diphtheria, the Washington Post writes, noting that children are “increasingly suffering health problems in Port-au-Prince’s crowded encampments.” The campaign will last about two weeks, Roshan Khadivi, a UNICEF spokesperson, said (Slevin, 2/3).

The Miami Herald also reports on the campaign, which UNICEF is running in conjunction with the WHO and the Haitian government. “Measles is the leading killer of children,” said UNICEF spokesperson Kent Page, adding, “In the conditions of these makeshift camps, if there was to be a measles outbreak it would spread like wildfire” (McGrory, 2/3).

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