[News] Disputes Emerge Over Haiti Aid Control

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 18 10:53:02 EST 2010

(scathing video about US & UN militarization)

Monday, January 18, 2010
16:06 Mecca time, 13:06 GMT

Frustration mounts over Haiti aid

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

Aid organisations 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 neighbouring 
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 aeroplanes 
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 aeroplanes 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 "maximise the flow of everything that Haiti needs".

On claims that military aeroplanes 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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