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Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening
Baptist Global Response
January 21, 2010
4 MIN READ TIME

Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening

Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening
Baptist Global Response
January 21, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Conditions on the ground in Haiti

are very difficult, a member of Southern Baptists’ joint assessment team

reported from Port-au-Prince Jan. 20. A U.S. military commander, however, said

important progress has been made on enlarging the conduit for relief shipments

into the quake-ravaged island nation.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of damage — more so toward the

center of the city,” reported Jim Brown, U. S. director for Baptist Global

Response, in a terse e-mail sent from his cell phone. “We’ve helped with a couple

of deliveries. Helicopters everywhere. People still being found alive!”

In another report, relayed to a meeting of the Southern

Baptist Disaster Relief Network, team member Bruce Poss indicated that traffic

in Port-au-Prince is terrible and milling crowds are making travel and security

serious concerns. He reported seeing 5,000 or more people lined up outside the

US Embassy in the capital.

The five-member team delivered relief supplies — water,

plastic sheeting, bottled gas, beans, rice, eggs, diesel fuel, canned goods —

to a couple of churches and orphanages, Brown said. They were planning to

connect with a Florida Baptist assessment team later in the day.

A U.S. military commander said the flow of relief supplies

into Haiti would be helped by the opening of three new airfields and the

country’s seaport, news services reported. Gen. Douglas Fraser, who heads the

U.S. Southern Command, told the Miami Herald newspaper the capital’s seaport

would reopen Jan. 21 and could accommodate about 150 shipping containers per

day. The port’s capacity is expected to grow to 250 containers per day by Jan.

22.

The main airport in Port-au-Prince, which has one runway and

one loading ramp, has been a bottleneck for the arrival of humanitarian aid,

even after it was reopened. A total of 1,400 flights are backlogged to land at

the airfield, Fraser said. Because congestion on the roads has been hindering

delivery of relief supplies, 63 U.S. helicopters have been dropping water, food

and medical supplies into the most inaccessible areas, he told the newspaper.

The U.S. military has distributed 1.4 million bottles of

water, more than 700,00 meals, and about 22,000 pounds of medical supplies

directly to people in need, Fraser said.

As many as 2 million Haitians are homeless because of the

Jan. 12 earthquake, relief officials say, with vast numbers of people living in

makeshift tents made of sheets and sticks. The estimated death toll stands at

200,000, but humanitarian medical groups warn that number will continue to grow

as people die of untreated injuries and disease that infects the ramshackle

camps, news services report.

Southern Baptist medical personnel who are willing to help

in the relief effort can e-mail [email protected] to register their

availability. Baptist state convention disaster relief offices also will be

organizing teams of volunteers to help once the assessment teams have returned

with strategic recommendations for the response.

The Southern Baptist relief effort, like the one mounted

after Hurricane Katrina and the South Asia tsunami, will be focused on the long

term, Mickey Caison, who directs disaster operations for the North American

Mission Board, told the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network Jan. 20.

Previous strategies have focused on short-term help for people being missed by

large-scale humanitarian projects and a long-term emphasis on helping people

rebuild their lives and communities.

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