Tuesday’s Headlines: Security Concerns Hamper Aid Distribution in Haiti

BY Alicia Lozano  January 19, 2010 at 8:57 AM EDT

U.S. troops arrive to assist with Haiti earthquake relief efforts; AFP/Getty
Updated 1:20pm ET

Aid to Haiti continues to be slow-moving one week after its capital, Port-au-Prince, was heavily damaged by a 7.0 earthquake. The Washington Post is reporting that security has become the primary concern there, and has limited the ability of relief organizations, including the United Nations, to distribute food and medicine.

Major delays at the area’s only airport in Port-au-Prince are further hampering relief efforts. Although the U.S. military says it can now get 100 flights a day through the airport — up from 60 last week — troops began parachuting supplies to areas outside the city on Monday rather than further clogging the airport, according to the Associated Press.

In the city, scores of quake survivors fought for passage on buses heading out of the disaster zone and into the countryside. Ticket prices have already doubled, reported the Washington Post.

Those who cannot leave continue to roam the ruined streets in search of food and water. Most in need are children orphaned by the disaster, said a representative from UNICEF, which is pushing to open a facility for children separated from their families.

The U.S. military airdropped some 14,000 ready-to-eat meals and 15,000 liters of water on Tuesday. Earlier, officials warned that the airdrops could be risky because of airport traffic and reports of looting, but now the U.S. is considering spreading the airdrops throughout the country to quicken the pace of relief efforts.

The helicopters are joined by more than 2,000 Marines, which come equipped with heavy-lifting equipment, a dozen helicopters and medical support facilities, reported the BBC.

The AP reported Tuesday that scores of U.S. troops landed on the lawn of Haiti’s shattered presidential palace to the cheers of quake victims.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that Haiti remains a tough test of “compassion” for the international community. “It is a test of our resolve,” he said.

Although death tolls have ranged widely, some 70,000 bodies have been reportedly recovered and sent to mass graves.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council endorsed a proposal to send 3,500 more peacekeepers to Haiti, but officials do not know when those forces will arrive. The Pentagon said that it has roughly 1,700 troops already stationed there, with another 3,3000 scheduled to arrive by midweek.

The U.N. humanitarian chief, John Holmes, told the Associated Press that his organization was struggling to get their 15 food distribution centers up and running because getting supplies onto the ground has been so difficult. The U.N. World Food Program hoped to feed 97,000 people by Monday and is calling for another 100 million prepared meals for the next 30 days.