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Security Challenges Plague Aid Effort’s Growth in Haiti

January 19, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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More much-needed aid arrived in Haiti on Tuesday, but aid organizations reported security has increasingly become a serious obstacle to distribution. ITN's Jon Snow reports.

JIM LEHRER: The pleas for quick action grew ever more urgent today in Haiti’s earthquake zone. But relief agencies reported lack of security is holding up distribution of aid. The U.N. Security Council voted to send another 3,500 peacekeepers and police, even as hundreds of U.S. troops began arriving.

We begin with a pair of reports from Independent Television News.

First, Jon Snow in Port-au-Prince.

JON SNOW: The Americans on the ground weighed down by their own survival packs, let alone anyone else’s, deployed this afternoon to protect what’s left of the city hospital, boots on the ground, but people on the ground in their masses, too. No one wants to stay indoors, if there is still one.

The Americans are in the disintegrated palace grounds, too, the people on the lawns outside. People and president may share homelessness, but when I ask about, had anyone seen the president, a minister, an official, a politician, no one had.

MAN: No politicians, any ministers, nothing, because we need we need more attention. Like, we talk about the people who’s dead, but we don’t talk about the people who’s alive.

JON SNOW: A week on from the quake, there is no leadership and the aid on the ground is still a trickle. The search-and-rescue teams are still active, but they’re only waiting now for the official order that their phase is over, and then they will leave.

These men are from the fire brigades from all over Britain, veterans of the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquakes. But, today, they muster in vain. No escort from the U.N. is forthcoming.

SEAN MOORE, commander, West Midlands Fire Service: What has happened is, there’s been an urgent request for the security, so that security has now been assigned to somebody else. So, of course, we have got to wait here. So, yes, it is frustrating.

JON SNOW: Driving through Port-au-Prince, we come up behind U.S. and Jamaican rescue teams en route to the U.N. police compound, where officers drawn from Benin and Guinea perished.

A woman was pulled alive from here two days ago. Now pistol fire had been heard from inside, together with a text message that had been sent by someone else inside.

MAN: They had a text on a phone yesterday morning 7:00 a.m.

MAN: Hello?

JON SNOW: The American-Jamaican team is meticulous in its planning, surveying and assessing.

Fellow Beninois and Guinean peacekeepers tell us the pistol shots were as recent as yesterday, tapping, too. They are convinced their friends are still alive. But, seven days on, it feels more than daunting. The Americans and the Jamaicans are still determined to try. The dog search finds nothing. They will spend all day here. When we left, they had still found nothing.

By tomorrow, such searches will have ended, and the effort will focus instead on trying to preserve those who survived and still have neither food nor shelter.