The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dan Beeton, CEPR, 202-239-1460

Haiti: NGO's and Relief Groups Call for Immediate and Widespread Distribution of Water and Other Aid Supplies

Aid Needs to Be Centrally Coordinated, Not Hindered, They Say


and policy groups today called for the U.S. government to prioritize
aid delivery over military deployment to Haiti, as airdrops of water
supplies only just began to get underway, and as the U.S. military
continued to prevent planes carrying aid supplies from landing in
Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, the largest two cities devastated by the
earthquake. A USA Today report
Tuesday stated that the U.S. had only airlifted 70,000 bottles of water
into Port-au-Prince since the earthquake last Tuesday. Three million
people are estimated to be in need of water and other aid.

"Right now the U.S. is blocking aid. There should be better
coordination so that all actors - other governments, agencies and NGO's
- ready to deliver aid are able to do so," said Melinda Miles, founder
and Director of Konbit pou Ayiti, an aid and assistance organization based in Haiti.

Established aid groups who have a long history of working in Haiti have
suddenly found themselves unable to deliver urgently needed medical,
water, and food supplies because the U.S. military will not grant them
access to ports and airports. Doctors Without Borders reported yesterday
that one of its "plane[s] carrying 12 tons of medical equipment,
including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was
turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday
night." Groups ready to deliver aid to Jacmel - the fourth-largest city
in Haiti - were told they would receive no clearance to land there from
the U.S. military, even though they already had both aid supplies and
the means for distributing them. This aid is only just now beginning to
be delivered because of assistance from the Dominican Republic.

Aid groups also report that outside Port-au-Prince, there are places
where quake survivors have fled where the infrastructure is capable of
receiving airdropped aid. Many of these areas are not being utilized
for airdrops, however.

Numerous media reports and statements from officials suggest that U.S.
and UN relief teams have delayed aid distribution due to security
concerns. Yet Lt. General P.K. Keen, Deputy Commander of the U.S.
Southern Command, reports that there is less violence in Haiti now than
there was before the earthquake hit, and Doctor Evan Lyon of Partners
in Health stated,
"there's also no violence. There is no insecurity," and that the
security concerns are being overstated due to "misinformation and
rumors... and racism."

"The U.S.
military needs to prioritize getting clean water and other essential
needs to the population," Mark Weisbrot,
Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said. "The
clock is running and the lack of clean water is a serious threat to
public health. They have the ability to get water or, where it is
useful, water treatment chemicals, to everyone in need - that should be
a vastly higher priority than getting thousands of more troops and
military equipment on the ground."

Sources who have participated in "cluster group" meetings held by the
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) report
in-fighting and confusion over aid distribution, as different teams
point fingers and assign blame for who is responsible for aid delays.
Some distribution missions that MINUSTAH had thought to have been
completed have yet to occur, the sources say.

Relief teams and NGO workers on the ground in Haiti report that food
and water is being directed at large scale camps, but not isolated
areas where in some places groups of hundreds of people still await any
assistance. Jacmel, near Haiti's Southern coast, has received much less
attention from foreign governments, aid groups, or the media - due in
part to U.S. denial of aid groups' access into Jacmel. The first team
of foreign surgeons arrived in Jacmel yesterday,
joining only "3 Haitian doctors and a few Cubans ones for over 2,000
patients" who "are still recovering the injured from the rubble."

About Konbit pou Aytiti (KONPAY): KONPAY
was founded in November 2004 in Jacmel, Haiti by Melinda Miles, former
co-director of the Quixote Center, and Haitian-American Joe Duplan.
Miles and Duplan decided to move to Haiti work there when many were
fleeing during the unrest following February 29, 2004, because they
felt they could be more effective on the ground. With a grant from the
Public Welfare Foundation, KONPAY began distributing emergency
assistance to human rights and women's organizations, as well as
establishing safe houses in Port-au-Prince.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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