Haiti government has more food than it can distribute

January 19th, 2010 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Port-au-Prince, Jan 19 (IANS/EFE) The Haitian government has received more food in international aid than it can store and distribute, the person in charge of coordinating food aid in the wake of last week’s magnitude-7.0 earthquake has said.
“In principle we have enough food, the problem is unloading and storing it,” said Michel Chancy, secretary of state for agriculture.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told EFE that the government has picked up and buried as many as 72,000 bodies, to which must be added the “very many” disposed of by their own families or by members of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti.

“When I said on the first day that there would be more than 100,000 dead they told me I was crazy. Today I see that I was very far below the true number,” Bellerive said, without venturing a total number of fatalities.

As for those left homeless, he divides them into two groups: those whose homes were destroyed, approximately 1.5 million people, and a similar number whose homes are so damaged that in many cases they will have to be torn down.

The total number of homeless, therefore, could be about a third of the population of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

“The reality of this disaster is something unimaginable, it’s like the civil population was bombed for a whole week. Even dogs stopped barking for three days,” Bellerive said to illustrate the “absolute commotion” the earthquake caused.

He said that the government’s priorities are to provide food, water and shelter for the homeless.

Chancy outlined the main problem being faced: lack of logistics for unloading and storing aid and the need to provide security cordons around every humanitarian convoy.

The prime minister said that on paper the capital region has a force of 2,000 police, but the truth is that only 60 percent are available and they are exhausted after working shifts of up to 48 hours without rest.

The government has asked the US and Canada to send troops to help maintain order.

Till now, the US has sent 2,000 troops of the 82nd Airborne Division to Haiti, according to military sources, and more are expected to arrive over the next few days.

Despite all the problems, 73,000 food rations were distributed Sunday among those left homeless by the quake and the administration plans to increase the amount to 135,000.

The US government had initially committed $100 million to relief efforts and officials from the 27 European Union member-states agreed Monday to appropriate a total of roughly 430 million euros ($618.65 million) both in urgent humanitarian aid and in medium-term reconstruction.

EU authorities were also considering a request from the UN to provide ships and helicopters to facilitate the transport of aid to and within Haiti.



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