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Medical Care for Haitians Falls Short, Group Warns







People fight for a biscuit packet during at a U.N. food distribution area in Port-au-Prince.
A major aid organization that has been providing health care in Haiti for two decades warned that 20,000 quake victims are dying daily because of a lack of medical care, especially surgery.
The alarm raised the possibility that because of Haiti's dire poverty and demolished port, far more victims will die in the second and third weeks than is normal in earthquakes, where most casualties occur in the first days.
The country was rattled Wednesday morning by an aftershock, which alarmed residents but appeared to cause significant new destruction. The aftershock, which measured a 5.9 magnitude, was the largest of 49 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater that have followed the 7.0 quake on Jan. 12, according to the Associated Press. Even the mild damage caused by the aftershocks complicated efforts to bring desperately needed medical help.
Despite a huge increase in the flow of aid—daily flights at Port-au-Prince's one-runway airport have rocketed to 180 from 30—the amount of relief supplies remains inadequate to the need. The World Food Program said more than a quarter-million ready-to-eat food rations had been distributed in Haiti by Tuesday, but that was enough for only a fraction of the three million people thought to be in desperate need.
The WFP said it needs to deliver 100 million ready-to-eat rations in the next 30 days, but it only had 16 million meals in the pipeline.
Hundreds of thousands of newly homeless residents of Haiti's capital have set up makeshift homes everywhere from public squares to gasoline stations. The Haitian government has estimated that more than one million of a population of some 10 million have lost their homes and that in some neighborhoods, 80% of the buildings were destroyed.
Governments have pledged nearly $1 billion in aid, and thousands of tons of food and medical supplies have been shipped. But much remains trapped in warehouses, or diverted to the neighboring Dominican Republic.
The obstacles are myriad and massive. Port-au-Prince's seaport was wrecked in the temblor and many of Haiti's roads, terrible in the best of times, are now impassable. Communications were stricken and the government was knocked out and now is barely functioning. Fears of violence made some donors reluctant to deliver relief without security forces. Hard-hit towns scattered in the rural countryside are hard to reach and the country's crushing poverty left no cushion for anything. In addition, there are no large stocks of medicine, food, or other supplies.
Port-au-Prince's ruined seaport has begun taking small deliveries of emergency aid from offshore, and U.S. military forces are seeking to use other ports to relieve the tremendous pressure on the airport that has been virtually the only way into Haiti.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, deputy commander of all U.S. forces in Haiti, told reporters in a video conference at the Pentagon Tuesday that one of the military's top priorities is bringing equipment in to rebuild the port to allow for its "full opening."
But full—or even significant—operation could take a long time to restore. The seaport's main terminal, which normally handles more than 90% of the cargo entering Haiti, is unusable, said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. John Little, a member of an assessment team seeking to put the country's ports back to work.
That leaves only a "finger pier" normally used only by smaller boats. The earthquake tore a 200-foot hole in the middle of that 1,000-foot pier, and only one trailer truck at a time can drive out on it and unload cargo, officials said.
While security remains a concern, Haiti has rejected an offer of 800 troops from the Dominican Republic that had been proposed as part of a new deployment of 2,000 U.N. peacekeepers approved by the Security Council on Tuesday, according to a senior Western diplomat.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, have a long history of tense relations.


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