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A week after Haiti quake, aid for all is elusive

By Jonathan M. Katz

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 20 2010 12:10 a.m. MST

A woman gestures as she waits in line for food from the United Nations in the Cite Soleil neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Tuesday. The food ran out before most of the line could pass. The U.N. Security Council has unanimously approved 3,500 extra troops and police officers to beef up security in Haiti and ensure that desperately needed aid gets to earthquake victims.

Ramon Espinosa, Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The world still can't get enough food and water to the hungry and thirsty one week after an earthquake shattered Haiti's capital. The airport remains a bottleneck, the port is a shambles. The Haitian government is invisible, nobody has taken firm charge, and the police have largely given up.

Even as U.S. troops landed in Seahawk helicopters Tuesday on the manicured lawn of the National Palace, the colossal efforts to help Haiti are proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster and the limitations of the world's governments. Expectations exceeded what money, will and military might have been able to achieve so far in the face of unimaginable calamity.

"God has abandoned us! The foreigners have abandoned us!" yelled Micheline Ursulin, tearing at her hair as she rushed past a large pile of decaying bodies.

Three of her children died in the quake and her surviving daughter is in the hospital with broken limbs and a serious infection.

Rescue groups continue to work, even though time is running out for those buried by the quake. A Mexican team created after that nation's 1985 earthquake rescued Ena Zizi, a69. She had survived a week buried in the ruins of the residence of Haiti's Roman Catholic archbishop, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, whose body was found Tuesday sitting in a chair in what appeared to be his office.

Doctors said Zizi was dehydrated and had dislocated a hip and broken a leg.

"I'm all right, sort of," she said, lying on a foil thermal blanket outside the Cuban hospital, her gray hair covered in white dust.

An ardent Catholic, Zizi sang a hymn of praise and thanks to God in a strong but strained voice that resonated across the hospital garden filled with ailing quake victims on stretchers.

"This is a miracle," said one of her sons, bank clerk Joseph Josner.

Those who survived the quake from the beginning but had lost their homes and possessions were growing desperate as they camped out in the streets and in a plaza across from the National Palace.

"We need so much. Food, clothes. We need everything. I don't know whose responsibility it is, but they need to give us something soon," said Sophia Eltime, a 29-year-old mother of two who has been living under a bedsheet with seven members of her extended family. She said she had not eaten yet Tuesday.

It is not just Haitians questioning why aid has been so slow for victims of one of the worst earthquakes in history: an estimated 200,000 dead, 250,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. Officials in France and Brazil and aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders have complained of bottlenecks, skewed priorities and a crippling lack of leadership and coordination.

"TENS OF THOUSANDS OF EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS NEED EMERGENCY SURGICAL CARE NOW!!!!!" said a news release from Partners in Health, co-founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, the deputy U.N. envoy to Haiti.

"Our medical director has estimated that 20,000 people are dying each day who could be saved by surgery." No details were provided on how the figure was determined.

The reasons are varied:

 Both national and international authorities suffered great losses in the quake, taking out many of the leaders best suited to organize a response.

 Woefully inadequate infrastructure and a near-complete failure in telephone and Internet communications complicate efforts to reach millions of people forced from homes turned into piles of rubble.

 Fears of looting and violence keep aid groups and governments from moving as quickly as they'd like.;

 Pre-existing poverty and malnutrition put some at risk even before the quake hit.

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