Frustration Mounts Over Haiti Aid

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Al Jazeera English

Frustration Mounts Over Haiti Aid

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Desperately needed aid is still not reaching large swathes of the population (Reuters)

Tensions are rising on the streets of Haiti as the bulk of earthquake
survivors continue to go without food, medicine or proper shelter.

Aid organizations continued to struggle to reach them with supplies
on Sunday, six nights after the devastating earthquake that killed tens
of thousands of people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

A bottleneck at the capital's small airport - the main entry point
for the massive assistance pledged by world leaders following the
disaster - means little help has reached the many people waiting for
help in makeshift camps on streets strewn with debris and decomposing
bodies.

Airport bottleneck

Some aid agencies have complained about a lack of co-ordination at
the Port-au-Prince airport, where the US military has taken over
operations.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, (MSF) said an
aircraft carrying a mobile hospital was denied permission to land at
the airport on Saturday and diverted to neighboring Dominican
Republic, where it would take a further 24 hours to deliver supplies by
road.

"Priority must be given immediately to planes carrying lifesaving equipment and medical personnel," MSF said in a statement.

Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said quake
survivors in the capital were growing increasingly frustrated over what
appeared to be the mismanagement or miscommunication that was holding
up the aid.

In the absence of large scale foreign help, Haitians were trying to
help each other, our correspondent said, with some turning homes into
hospitals to treat the wounded and others giving away food, but food
supplies and other resources were running out.

People could see helicopters flying overhead, US military vehicles
in the city and airplanes arriving at the airport with supplies, so it
was difficult to understand why little aid appeared to be reaching the
people, she said.

Meanwhile the European Union pledged over $575m in emergency and long-term aid, the bloc said on Monday.

The union is also moving towards sending 150 people to assist the
police force and help beef up security, as tensions in the Caribbean
nation rise.

US defends position

The US military said on Sunday that it was doing its best to get as many aircraft as possible into Port-au-Prince.

The airport's control tower was knocked out by the quake and US
military air controllers were operating from a radio post on the
airfield grass, he said.

"What we set up here would be similar to running a major airport ...
without any communications, electricity or computers," Colonel Buck
Elton, the US commander at the airport, told reporters by telephone.

He said there had been 600 take-offs and landings since his crew
took over operations at the one-runway airport's traffic on Wednesday,
and 50 flights had been diverted.

But the flow of air traffic was improving, he said, with only three
of 67 incoming flights being rerouted on Saturday, and only two flights
diverted on Sunday.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, PJ Crowley, a spokesman for the US state
department, defended the US handling of Haiti's airport and
international aid.

He said changes in airport procedures "to increase efficiency and
effectiveness", as well as "a technical reason", were possible reasons
why some airplanes were not allowed to land.

Pointing out that the US military had, by adding to the
infrastructure of the airport, increased flights from 20 a day to 60 a
day, he said whatever limited infrastructure Haiti had before the quake
was devastated by the quake and it had taken time to "maximize the flow
of everything that Haiti needs".

On claims that military airplanes with troops were being allowed to
land while those carrying aid supplies were not, he said that was
"absolutely not true".

"They are bringing in aid, communications gear for the Haitian
government so they can begin to operate and function once again," he
said.

Not only food, water, healthcare, he said, but also "the kinds of
gear that allows us to save lives, to bring in capacity so that they
can establish an effective network to distribute food among the three
million people in the city".

Signs of progress

There were some signs of progress on Sunday as international medical
teams took over damaged hospitals and clinics where injured and sick
people had lain untreated for days.

A few street markets had begun selling
vegetables and charcoal in the capital and US officials said
international search teams had rescued at least 61 people alive so far.

Hundreds of trucks carrying aid and guarded by armed UN patrols
streamed from the airport and UN headquarters out into the city on
Sunday but they were soon obstructed on streets clogged with people,
debris and vans carrying coffins and bodies.

There were also scrums for food and water as UN trucks distributed
food packets and US military helicopters dropped boxes of water bottles
and rations.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, who visited Port-au-Prince on
Sunday, said the situation in the country was "one of the worst
humanitarian crises in decades".

Amid shouts of "where is the food? Where is the help?" from
survivors and asked if he feared riots over the delays in aid, Ban
appealed to the Haitian people "to be more patient".

Haitian government officials say 70,000 bodies have already been
buried in mass graves and estimate the total death toll to be between
100,000 and 200,000.

 Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

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