Aid struggles to reach Haitians
Countries and relief organisations around the world are sending aid to Haiti, which was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Tuesday, affecting up to three million people, most of them in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Relief efforts, however, have been hampered by damaged or destroyed infrastructure, lack of shelter, and communications difficulties. The main port, meanwhile, was severely damaged, and unable to handle any cargo.
As of today, at least 300,000 people were estimated to be homeless in the capital, according to the United Nations; the organisation reports that one in ten buildings completely collapsed due to the tremors and resulting aftershocks. The UN said it believes 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed by the quake, while Haitian President Rene Preval said that seven thousand bodies were buried in a mass grave.
Port-au-Prince’s main airport remained open as of today, and relief airplanes were arriving faster than they could be unloaded, prompting fears that planes could run out of fuel while waiting their turn to land.
Even with the amount of aid coming in, it is proving difficult to deliver it where it is needed; many roads have been blocked by rubble. Alejandro Lopez-Chicheri, a senior spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP), commented: “The roads, many of them are still to be opened, and on the ones that are open there are still people concentrated on the sides of the roads.” He described Haiti as being “completely on the ground”.
“This is a logistical challenge. Before the earthquake struck we were already assisting one million people here, we are considering it will be at least double that after this earthquake,” he told the Al Jazeera news agency.
The WFP has estimated that two million people will need food aid; however, only four thousand have so far been fed. “The physical destruction is so great that physically getting from point A to B with the supplies is not an easy task,” said a WFP spokeswoman in Geneva at a news conference.