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Red Cross Boosts Humanitarian Aid to Haiti

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is increasing its humanitarian activities in Haiti.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the political situation in Haiti is unraveling more quickly than anyone could have imagined. It says it is worried about a complete breakdown of public services, particularly in the health sector.

The Chief of the ICRC's Latin American and Caribbean operations Yves Giovannoni says he is worried about the lack of security in hospitals in the capital, Port au Prince, and in the northern town of Gonaives. During the past few weeks, he says local thugs have looted the hospitals, causing the medical staff to flee and the sick and wounded to go unattended.

"Loose elements who enter hospital compounds, who take out wounded people," he said. "We do not always know what happens to them afterwards. Who do not respect the medical staff, who do not respect ambulance service, do not let them through barricades."

Mr. Giovannoni says the ICRC's major priority is to ensure better protection in the hospitals. He says up to 50 wounded people have been arriving in the hospital in Port au Prince every day, and the medical staff is over-worked.

He says the ICRC will increase its staff in the country. That will include two surgical teams that will be assigned to the hospitals in Port au Prince and in Gonaives.

He says one of their tasks will be to train local healthcare workers on how to treat war wounded.

"Handling war wounded, meaning people with bullets in their body or with cuts by knives, machetes," he said. "This requires a particular surgical technique, particular policies in terms of using antibiotics."

Besides caring for the wounded, Mr. Giovannoni says Red Cross delegates are visiting some 3,000 prisoners. He says the agency, which has been operating in Haiti since 1995, has good relations with all parties in the conflict. Therefore, it is able to move around freely in the country.

He says the ICRC has dispatched enough supplies for 500 war wounded and will be sending more medical supplies in the next two days.