International charities pouring a jumble of aid into Haiti must work better together to reach and help survivors of the catastrophic earthquake, President Rene Preval said on Wednesday.
Aid groups and troops from around the world have struggled to distribute food, water and medical care to an estimated 3 million Haitians injured or left homeless in the magnitude-7 earthquake that wrecked much of Haiti's capital on Jan. 12, killing as many as 200,000 people.
"I am not in a position to criticize anybody, not in the least people who have come here to help me," Preval said. "What I am staying is, what everybody is saying is, that we need a better coordination."
Some food handouts have turned ugly, with U.N. peacekeepers using teargas and warning shots to control jostling crowds. Other people living in ragtag encampments around Port-au-Prince have complained that no food has reached them.
Preval said he was grateful for fund-raising efforts around the world and tried to ease concerns that government corruption might siphon off aid meant for desperate Haitians.
"The Haitian government has not seen one cent of that money that has been raised for Haiti. I presume that that means the money is going to NGOs," he said, referring to non-governmental aid groups.
He said a Puerto Rican group had presented him with a shipping receipt showing it donated $3.5 million of food aid to feed Haitians. Preval said he asked, "Where is the food?" and was told it had already been given to aid groups.
Amputees and mythical beasts
Doctors in chronically impoverished Haiti say the quake had created perhaps tens of thousands of new amputees whose limbs were crushed by collapsing buildings or removed to save their lives after gangrene infected their untreated wounds. With so many hospitals and clinics destroyed, there was little chance they would get the therapy they need, doctors said.
"The future for people with both legs was already quite grim. What can be done for them?" said Dr. Lafontaine St. Louis, whose clinic made prosthetic limbs and provided physical therapy before the quake.
The earthquake also unleashed fears that child-eating spirits, mythological figures entrenched in Haitian culture, are prowling homeless camps in search of young prey.
Night-time patrols have been set up in some homeless camps to deter the 'loup-garou,' a spirit of Haitian folklore said to turn people into beasts to suck the blood of babies and young children. In one camp, residents described beating a man almost to death after he tried to take a baby during the night.
Aid, not ideology
Preval bristled at suggestions that the influx of foreign troops threatened Haitian sovereignty.
"We are talking about people suffering and you are talking about ideology," he told a journalist who raised the issue at a news conference with Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general for the Organization of American States.
In a reference to the U.S.-led rebuilding of Europe after the Second World War, Insulza added, "Did the Europeans lose their sovereignty with the Marshall Plan?"
Cuba and Venezuela, longtime ideological foes of the United States, have questioned the U.S. decision to send more than 15,000 military personnel to Haiti to provide security and disaster relief, with Cuba calling it a stealth "occupation."
France has also complained that U.S. troops controlling air traffic in Haiti's capital diverted a French medical flight, accusing them of giving preference to U.S. planes.
When a French reporter asked why U.S. troops were controlling flights, Preval replied: "You need to run the airport, you need technical help and they offered it to us. I really can't understand why the need for that is so difficult to accept."
Preval spoke to journalists at the police headquarters building, where he and his cabinet ministers have worked since the earthquake smashed the presidential palace, parliament and more than a dozen ministry buildings.
ReutersLast Mod: 27 Ocak 2010, 22:36