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Aid Groups Look to Break up Bottlenecks After Haiti Quake

January 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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While 7,000 U.S. forces were scheduled to be in Haiti by the end of Monday, the U.N. is seeking to send additional peacekeepers to help break bottlenecks choking the aid effort. Jon Snow of ITN reports.

RAY SUAREZ: Transportation and distribution bottlenecks continue to choke the massive international aid effort. Some 7,000 U.S. troops will be in country or offshore by this evening. The U.N. secretary-general asked the Security Council for additional police and peacekeepers to join the 9,000 already on the ground, their mission, to break up the choke holds at the airport and the port, so the assistance can get where it’s needed.

Jon Snow of ITN has more.

JON SNOW: Finally, toward sunset, water. It comes in the form of a vast, but still inadequate water tanker. They have queued for it all day, Angeline, in yellow T-shirt, and her neighbors.

It is their most fundamental need. And this is the first time they have had a chance to get it this way. But even a truck this size simply doesn’t have enough. And Angeline is one of the many who don’t get any at all, she and her friend, Maria, eight months pregnant.

This is the only drinking water. All other water, they have to buy on the black market. This is the Nazan district of Port-au-Prince where they grew up, and where Angeline has had her own children, just five minutes from the presidential palace.

As she leads me to her ruined home, we reach the water racketeer, the private water seller.

Angeline hands him her still empty bucket. This is home now, anywhere on this small concrete basketball pitch. It’s the wounded you see first, an old lady, an untrained medic trying to strap a cardboard and wooden splint on to her broken leg. The pain is unimaginable, but she utters not a sound.

Close by, on a bedspread, the local pastor, traumatically injured when his church fell in upon him.

He needs a doctor very urgently.

MAN: Yes.

JON SNOW: Is there no doctor?

MAN: No doctor.

JON SNOW: At all? No doctor at all?

MAN: No. No.

JON SNOW: No nurse? No first aid? Nothing?

MAN: No.

JON SNOW: How many people now are you looking after?

Three hundred and six, he says, of whom 30 are seriously injured, one, this older woman, hit in the face by masonry, her eye completely enveloped by the punctured bruising. She desperately needs drugs and antiseptics. The place is highly insecure, too.

MAN: The Americans’ president, Obama, he said that he was going to send 10,000 G.I.s here.


MAN: If they come, I would like to tell them, please give us security. Last night…


MAN: … dealers tried to come here, because…

JON SNOW: Robbers?

MAN: Yes.

JON SNOW: He said he recognized them as having come from the ruptured prison. There are armed gangsters about, he told me, as American helicopters moved through the horizon. Ironically, it was U.S. aid that paid for this basketball pitch years ago, but six days on from the quake, no official of any kind has been here.

As we leave, Angeline urges up to go up into the pile to find her dead relatives, whilst, 100 feet below, an older woman signals three corpses in her house, almost certainly three people she loved and lived with. She wants them out. The stench hangs everywhere.

Another 200 meters on and an even bigger count, a vision of Haiti, 1,000 people crammed into a tiny wedge between what once were blocks of flats.

Yet, even here, there is still intimacy, a grandfather with his grandchild on his knee, a mother sleeping, a granny in immaculately pressed blouse being helped up the hill from the makeshift wash houses, and still the wounded of the earthquake. There is also embryonic organization, a book of handwritten entries listing the living and the dead compiled by the people in the camp.

No official has been to see you?

MAN: No, no, no, at this time, nobody.

JON SNOW: Nobody?

MAN: Nobody.

JON SNOW: But, by chance, just as we were leaving the camp, we found the very first officials to visit, the man from the U.N. organization that handles displaced people, together with a lady in pink with a yellow pad and notes, and, amazingly, one of the two surviving district mayors, the deputy mayor of Port-au-Prince itself.

GUERCY MOUSCARDY, deputy mayor, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti: (through translator): Fortunately, I’m not the only one alive. There is another mayor. God ensures that we will work together to help others to survive.

BAKARY DOUMBIA, United Nations: I cannot say right here what I can do to help. I know that I alone cannot do everything. There are several agencies.

JON SNOW: But you will try to call other agencies…

BAKARY DOUMBIA: And we will give this information — we are sharing this information with all other agencies, so that every agency can see what they can do. We are not a medical organization.


BAKARY DOUMBIA: Some agencies can give medical help. But, for them to be able to give those medical help, they need to know where the people are.

JON SNOW: The mayor agreed to come to Angeline’s camp. He depends on U.N. to carry him around. He told me his house is gone. He too is sleeping on the street where once his home stood.

When we reached the basketball pitch, there was Angeline again, surprised an official had finally come so soon. The mayor meeted, greeted and did what he might have done at any time. But, in this time of grief and disaster, what more could he do?

GUERCY MOUSCARDY: It’s plain to see we don’t have any money, but we have the will. That’s our strength.

JON SNOW: As night falls, outside the temporary barriers, the guards at the camps are armed with hammers and machetes. The insecurity is palpable. Menace is very much in the air.