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Two weeks after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, the country has ended the search for survivors, turning the rescue focus to new troubles: aid groups grappling with distribution problems, disease fears due to unsanitary conditions and the increasing threat of riots.
The nation’s government reported the death toll could rise to 300,000.
Doctors fear the unsanitary, improvised tent camps, which are housing an estimated 1 million survivors, could become breeding grounds for typhoid fever, measles and E. coli. Also, makeshift hospitals are struggling to continue follow-up care to avoid infections for those who have already received treatment.
“We are talking about thousands of amputations and maybe half of the people who have been amputated have several limbs amputated,” said Dr. Mirta Roses, director of the Pan American Health Organization, in a press conference at Haiti’s airport (Reuters).
Many more suffered head and eye injuries.
After days of logistical problems while bringing rescue provisions into Haiti, supplies are now on the ground, but the constant fear of riots hinders each attempt to distribute aid.
“In front of the wrecked National Palace, people's desperation boiled over. Uruguayan [United Nations] peacekeepers had to fire pepper spray into the air to try to disperse thousands jostling for food.
“The overwhelmed soldiers finally retreated, and young men rushed forward to grab the bags of pinto beans and rice, emblazoned with the U.S. flag, pushing aside others—including a pregnant woman who collapsed and was trampled. Thousands were left without food” (The Associated Press).
United Nations and United States soldiers are working with Haitian law enforcement officials in an attempt to bring order after one of the worst natural disasters in history.
“You’re talking about a country that pre-earthquake had limited resources and capability, and what resources it did have were concentrated in the capital,” Kim Bolduc, coordinator of the UN relief effort, told The New York Times. “This context helps explain why this emergency is probably the most complex in history, more than the tsunami, more than the  Pakistan earthquake.”