International Relief Operations Under Way in Haiti
Lisa Schlein | Geneva 14 January 2010
International aid agencies report emergency operations for earthquake victims in Haiti are slowly gathering steam. But, they say they are working under severe constraints and it will take time before essential, critical needs are met.
The United Nations reports the airport is open, but is congested and good coordination will be necessary to move relief goods to affected areas.
They say the main roads from the airport to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, are being cleared of rubble and other debris, so vehicles can get through.
The director of the World Food Program office in Geneva, Charles Vincent, says most people have had no food for a couple of days, except for 3,000 people living in Jacmel near the airport who received some food Wednesday.
He says the agency will start distributing food to 2,400 beneficiaries in the capital Port-au-Prince.
"Compared to the needs, this is just a drop in the sea, as I just said," he explained. "But, it is a start and we will be ramping up very quickly our distribution with the stocks that we have available in Port-au-Prince and possibly bringing some stocks from Gonaive if they are required. We also are trying to identify partners to distribute. Obviously all agencies have been very badly affected. This will be a serious problem over the coming days."
The United Nations says more than 100 of its staff workers are still missing. Many may have been killed. It says between 50 and 100 staff also are trapped in the U.N. compound in the capital, Port-au-Prince. In addition, aid agencies say they do not know what has happened to their local staff.
Search and rescue missions are still ongoing. Aid agencies say immediate priorities include food, clean water and sanitation, emergency shelter and medical services and supplies.
The World Health Organization reports at least eight hospitals have been damaged or destroyed in Haiti and two hospitals in neighboring Dominican Republic have been severely damaged.
A WHO spokesman, Paul Garwood, says this is hampering the ability for people to receive urgent life-saving treatment.
"We feel that the impact of this earthquake will be particularly devastating due to the already existing vulnerability of these people, the society and economy," he said. "In some facilities we have seen more than 600 people sent, receiving treatment in the first 24-36 hours. The major health conditions that we are seeing are, of course, trauma injuries-severe compound fractures, internal injuries, normally associated with being inside of dwellings that have collapsed down upon them, upon these people."
Garwood says the WHO main priority will be to prevent communicable diseases from spreading. He says under disaster conditions, there is a high risk of people getting respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases.
He says the organization is deploying 12 people specializing in the care of large numbers of victims, coordination of emergency sanitary aid and cadaver disposal.
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