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(REMOVE-REPLACED)US Official Tells VOA Haiti Supply Chain is in Full Gear

  • Melinda Smith

US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during an interview with VOA

US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during an interview with VOA

The Haitian government says many homeless Haitians are being moved to safer areas after being taken out of the destroyed city of Port-au-Prince, where the recent earthquake did its worst damage. On Friday, VOA's Melinda Smith talked with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the pace of getting medical supplies to those who need them.

There has been vocal criticism by some groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, who say patients are dying because their field hospitals lack basic medical supplies, like antibiotics.

Dr. John Angus of Hospital Fermathe says his facility is overrun with earthquake victims needing care. "What we do need really, is supply, supply for the O.R. [operating room], supply casting, metal plates to help put the bones together, so we are trying to run it the best we can," he said.

The U.S. military is delivering medical supplies and volunteer doctors are pitching in.

In Washington, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told VOA that adequate supplies are in the pipeline. Getting them delivered to everyone has been the challenge. "It's the ability to get them on a timely basis in Haiti. So they came on ships. They came on as many planes as possible. But there was so much needed simultaneously," she said.

The secretary says distribution has improved in the aftermath of the quake. Sebelius says the arrival of the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has brought 600 additional medical personnel, and more operating facilities.

Large amounts of emergency medical supplies have also been flown from Miami and are being unloaded as fast as they can.

Medical personnel sent by the U.S. Health and Human Services department have treated 7,000 patients, and another 600 more seriously ill Haitians are being cared for on the Comfort.

The Haitian government is encouraging as many as 400,000 displaced people to leave the damaged city of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Before the disaster, its people suffered from high infant mortality, HIV-AIDS, hepatitis and other communicable diseases.

Sebelius says the U.S. intends to help set Haiti's health care system upright again. "With more stable infrastructure, once it's rebuilt, with a more robust health system, there's an opportunity to not only deal with the immediate tragedy of the earthquake, but hopefully, some of the longer-term crises that Haitians have experienced day in and day out," she said.

The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary is optimistic that with many countries now focusing on the quake disaster in Haiti, global attention might also be directed toward solving some of that nation's long-term problems.

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