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UN Aid Groups Cite Progress in Haiti

Haitian earthquake victims struggle to get water from a distribution team in Port-au-Prince on 18 Jan 2010

Haitian earthquake victims struggle to get water from a distribution team in Port-au-Prince on 18 Jan 2010

United Nations aid agencies report they are making progress in getting crucial relief to hundreds of thousands of survivors of Haiti's devastating earthquake. The agencies say they are increasing efforts to try to reach people in areas outside the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Since the earthquake struck a week ago, aid efforts have been primarily centered on the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. Damaged roads and bridges, and debris from collapsed buildings have made it impossible to reach some outlying areas.

But, Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs says aid workers are increasing their efforts to reach areas outside Port-au-Prince.

She says reports of the level of destruction in some of these areas are staggering. Some towns have been practically destroyed.

She says people there are in desperate need of food, water and medical care.

Byrs says engineers are needed to repair roads and bridges and to remove heavy debris blocking aid routes.

Heavily populated Port-au-Prince suffered enormous damage and aid agencies have been struggling for the past week to reach the victims.

But World Food Program spokeswoman Emilia Casella says progress is being made. She says more than 270,000 people have received food assistance.

She says the World Food Program often is frustrated in its efforts to provide assistance because of the conditions. For instance, she says it aimed to reach 100,000 people with food aid Monday, but was only able to reach 60,000.

"We were unable to get to the full amount we hoped to yesterday due to a number of issues including aftershocks, which further damaged our warehouse and it made it very difficult to load some of the food that was in the warehouse locations," she explained. "So, that did reduce the amount that we were able to get out. But, nevertheless, progress is really very much being made," she said.

In the coming week, Casella says the World Food Program hopes to distribute 10 million ready-to-eat rations. In addition, she says more than four million special high-nutritional food rations will be distributed to children.

She says the World Food Program has identified more than 280 sites in and around Port-au-Prince where people gather to find food. She says her agency will use mobile units to bring aid to them.

Furthermore, she says four fixed distribution sites are being set up where people can go to get food.