Why isn’t aid getting through?

There have been endless reports documenting the plight of the Haitians and their desperate need for assistance, and most have focused on the fact that aid is not arriving, or not getting there fast enough. Some are even delaying their donations to the crisis until they can be sure aid is reaching those who need it most. There is a danger that this perspective puts the blame on humanitarian agencies who are working their hardest to deal with the crisis and portrays them as incompetent.

The earthquake destroyed presidential buildings, homes and vital infrastructure, leaving thousands without food, electricity or water. This has also made it almost impossible for the aid to get through. Roads are covered with debris, communications are down, and survivors have to dig through the rubble with their bare hands. Last week air traffic control systems were non-existent, with no electricity to power essential communication systems, vital to ensure the safe arrival of aid. The airport has been running on a limited service, with only four aircraft allowed to land at any one time, and most aid has been stranded at Santa Domingo in neighbouring Dominican Republic, awaiting authorisation to reach Haiti. Some have driven across the border to Haiti, but treacherous road conditions have presented their own problems. This has understandably led to great frustration, for aid workers and for the Haitians struggling to wait patiently for essential assistance.

Further logistical problems await in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, where surviving buildings are potentially unsafe and aid workers are struggling to find adequate shelter for the thousands of people who have been displaced. Prioritising immediate needs and deploying search and rescue teams has been further complicated by the lack of telecommunications, as mobile networks are down, and aid workers are having to rely on satellite phones. For the humanitarian agencies already on the ground, help cannot come soon enough; some have lost personnel in the earthquake and with their headquarters damaged, and finding enough staff and resources to provide for the scale of the disaster has presented huge logistical difficulties. Many have run out of their initial supplies, having distributed the emergency medical and survival kits within the first few hours of the disaster, but have not had enough to provide for the thousands of desperate survivors.

The humanitarian agencies and military forces are doing all they can to reach the Haitians and provide the vital assistance they need. Yet the chaos that ensues after a natural disaster on this scale is not easily resolved and it will take time for the aid to reach those who need it most. It is difficult to watch the situation unfold, and ask the Haitians to be patient when they so desperately need aid. Yet help is on its way, battling through rubble strewn across roads, tackling broken water pipes and struggling through airports with limited capacity. I don’t envy their task.

More: Why is it taking so long?

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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