‘Race Against Time’ to Distribute Haitian Relief

BY Larisa Epatko  January 16, 2010 at 9:21 AM EST

As supplies continued to stack up at Haiti’s airport Saturday, aid workers and officials pushed to get the much-needed provisions to the masses of earthquake survivors in and around the capital Port-au-Prince.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is traveling to the country Saturday, said Friday it was a “race against time” to help Haitians as their frustration built while awaiting food, water and other supplies. Clinton planned to meet with Haitian President Rene Preval, military officials and international groups on how best to help, reported the Associated Press.

The 7.0 magnitude quake that struck Tuesday killed an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people and left about one-third of the country’s 9 million people in need of emergency care, according to Red Cross estimates.

Camps have sprung up in parts of Port-au-Prince and there were scattered reports of looting.

At one such camp located next to Matthew 25 guest house in Port-au-Prince, workers from Pure Water for the World – Haiti set up bios and water filters (BSFs) and distributed ceramic filters to a nearby neighborhood, said head of operations Roman Cipus via e-mail.

“I [have] seen thousands of corpses left on each side of the streets, so far the government unable to bring them away and a high risk of other diseases coming along soon,” he said. “Ten thousands survived left Port-au-Prince on foot or whatever vehicle was available.”

News organizations showed footage of long lines at gas stations and reported that people were flowing into neighboring Dominican Republic.

The U.S. Southern Command said it has 24 helicopters flying relief missions from ships off the coast involving 4,200 military personnel, with 6,300 more due by Monday, according to the AP.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said Friday the World Food Program was providing high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals to around 8,000 people several times a day, and planned to ramp it up to 1 million people within 15 days and 2 million people within a month.

In addition to government efforts, private donations sent via text-messaging have amounted to a record $11 million, according to the Mobile Giving Foundation, reported Reuters.

The American Red Cross reported receiving $9 million through this method, and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund said it has raised $2 million.

Wireless service providers were waiving text-messaging fees and working to speed the time between when cell phone users make their donations and when they arrive at the charities.