Relief Efforts Continue to Struggle in Earthquake-Shattered Haiti

Relief Efforts Continue to Struggle in Earthquake-Shattered Haiti

Nearly a month after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake left Haiti's densely populated capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruins, the country remains in a state of crisis as relief efforts struggle to meet the overwhelming need of the Haitian people, the Washington Post reports.

Despite an influx of donations from around the globe, weary relief workers say the coming weeks will test the resolve of foreign donors and the resourcefulness of a Haitian government that has been all but invisible. Indeed, pressure is growing on a fledgling food distribution network backed by U.S. soldiers and the United Nations that so far has managed to deliver little more than rice to tens of thousands of individuals left homeless by the quake. At the same time, having moved beyond the horrific early days of what was described by some as Civil War-era medical care for the quake's survivors, doctors and nurses are now faced with converging streams of need, from untended wounds to illnesses born of poor sanitation to the ailments of a population that had inferior health care long before the January 12 quake.

Still, Port-au-Prince is far from the city of cadavers it was in the immediate aftermath of the quake, and efforts to get food into the city have gained traction after three weeks of false starts. The World Food Program, for one, expects to provide individuals in the disaster zone with 16,500 metric tons of rice and 6,100 metric tons of cooking oil and enriched corn-soya flour by early next week. Meanwhile, the U.S. government and UN Development Program have temporarily hired more than 40,000 Haitians to clear the huge amounts of rubble created by the quake.

Indeed, aid agencies warn that it will be years before the signs of the quake are gone from the streets of Port-au-Prince and sufficient housing has been built. In the meantime, they are encouraging long-term support for the battered capital. "The need is so overwhelming," said Lane Hartill, a Catholic Relief Services staff member usually based in Africa. "You can't have an initial push, and then it stops. That just won't be enough."

Peter Slevin. "Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts Are Still Falling Short." Washington Post 02/09/2010.