News / Americas

UN says Humanitarian Agencies Working 24/7 in Haiti

Meredith Buel

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says humanitarian agencies are working around the clock in Haiti and relief has started to flow more smoothly to the millions of people affected by the devastating earthquake. 

Mr. Ban says aid is reaching more people in Haiti every day.
He says the U.N. mission in the country is working flat out to help Haitians affected by the quake, which demolished the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Mr. Ban says 150 health centers and hospitals are up and running.

He says, however, there is still a desperate need for tents and shelter for the estimated one million Haitians left homeless following the quake on January 12.

Department of Defense spokesman Geoff Morrell says the United States currently has 15,000 soldiers on ships and on the ground in Haiti and thousands more will soon be headed for the country.

He told reporters at the Pentagon the U.S. is committed to helping the Haitian people get back on their feet after the earthquake.

Morrell says top officials at the Pentagon and the White House are currently discussing the future role for U.S. troops in Haiti.

"What precisely that means and how many forces are there doing what kinds of things for how long and at what kind of expense are precisely the discussions that are being had within this building and within the administration right now," said Geoff Morrell.

In Haiti, some of the efforts to hand out food and water have turned ugly, with security forces needing to use tear gas or fire warning shots to control jostling crowds.

Some Haitians living in ragtag encampments around Port-au-Prince have complained that relief supplies have not yet reached them.

U.S. Army Colonel Rick Kaiser says there are now 130 trucks distributing water in the capital.

In a conference call with reporters Kaiser says there is not a shortage of clean drinking water.

"I just can tell you that from my trips through the city I have not seen that at all and I have seen numerous water points that have been in operation," said Colonel Kaiser. "There are no lines, quite frankly, and that is a good indicator.  If there are no lines there might not be a shortage, especially if there are a lot of people around."

Haitians do line up for hours at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince hoping to get on a military flight to the United States.

"I came to get my family, my aunt and my cousin [out]," said one Haitian. "The house is gone and they are all victims."

Hopes of finding people alive under the rubble are fading as each day passes and bodies are still decaying in the streets.

"Every day the Chinese rescue workers remove bodies from houses and they put them on the side of the street," said another. "We try to remove them and bury them, but when we can't bury them they remain here and dogs eat them, pull the bodies apart.  It smells very bad."

In a bid to jumpstart Haiti's economy, the United Nations is paying people to clear rubble and waste.

More than 5,000 Haitians have signed up so far.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has returned after attending a donors meeting in Canada where he made a plea for sustained long-term assistance for his country.

"I don't just want to rebuild only Port au Prince, but to rebuild the entire Haiti," said Jean-Max Bellerive.

The Haitian prime minister says the funds received so far are enough to help only ten to 15 percent of Haiti's people.

Officials estimate it will take at least 10 years to rebuild the country.  
 

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