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Aid Reaches Small Number of Quake-torn Haitians

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Food has reached only around 7.5 percent of Haitians who are suffering from last week's 7.3-magnitude earthquake that ruined large part of the Caribbean country, local media reported Tuesday.

Traffic paralysis, mountainous geographic conditions, collapse of infrastructures and telecommunications have prevented aid from quickly reaching the victims.

Moreover, the aid work suffered from a lack of leadership due to the personnel losses of national and international authorities and a lack of coordination among different aid groups.

Haiti's Civil Defence Department estimated the quake had killed 75,000 people, injured 250,000 and left one million more homeless.

After the quake, Haiti received funds, goods and materials from the international community.

However, the above mentioned obstacles have prevented food, water and medicines from reaching the most needy: an estimated 3 million people who have lost their family members, homes and belongings in the disaster.

The nation's one-runway airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince is a severe limitation on the aid that must be delivered.

Only 18 aircraft can be parked in the area at a time and the US troops, which now run the facility, ordered it closed at one point last week because there was no more room.

Swiss non-government organization Doctors Without Borders said on its website the U.S military had twice turned away flights carrying doctors and medical supplies in order to land more troops.

The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also indicated as problems Port-au-Prince's sea port destroyed in the quake, damaged roads in the mountains and severe congestion on the main road linking Haiti to the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Fuel shortages have also become an obstacle in the delivery of aid that has reached, according to the World Food Program (WFP).

Fuel station staff said the main problem was not a lack of gasoline, but that fuel companies ceased to exist in the quake that had deprived them of offices and supply logistics.

The quake has also caused personnel losses of national and international authorities, who might be suitable to organize a response.

A large number of governmental buildings, including the presidential office, were damaged or destroyed, while numerous governmental officials have been killed, injured or missing in the quake.

Moreover, the UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed in the quake, killing both Hedi Annabi, the UN's special representative in Haiti, and his deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa alongside dozens of UN staff members.

Besides, the natural disaster has aggravated the instability and insecurity that had already existed in the country before the quake.

Fears of looting and violence keep aid groups and governments from moving as quickly as they expect.

Staff at the UN's WFP bases in the city said they had already seen theft from their warehouses by desperate citizens.

During a brief visit to Haiti at the weekend, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the body had been feeding some 200,000 people daily at 200 food distribution centers across Port-au-Prince.

Even so, the United Nations estimates there are 2 million people who need food aid urgently and Ban said "aid cannot come too soon" for all those suffering.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council endorsed a proposal to send 3,500 more peacekeepers to quake-stricken Haiti to support "immediate recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts."

The Haitian government declared a curfew in the nation, but it is largely being enforced by the U.S. military and the United Nations.

The United States is sending around 10,000 troops to the island, around half of whom will be offshore in ships; while the United Nations said it would build closer cooperation with the U.S. military to improve cooperation on coordinating aid delivery.

(Xinhua News Agency January 20, 2010)

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