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Saturday, January 23

Haiti Crisis: Reportedly only 10 percent of aid getting to Haitians

"Edmond Mulet, acting head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said on Friday that coordination in delivering aid in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere had improved and was getting better every day."

The report about continued aid-delivery snafus was at 6:05 PM ET tonight, from Fox Cable News correspondent Rick Levanthal in Port au Prince. He told the Fox anchor that from what he had been hearing today only 10 percent of aid was getting through to Haitians.

He didn't elaborate on where the bottlenecks were -- whether inside Haiti or because of backlogs in delivery to the country. He only mentioned the many obstacles still on the roadways -- concrete rubble, and so on.

Over at CNN, at about the same time Levanthal was reporting, Wolf Blitzer was re-airing a report from late last night from Sanjay Gupta, who said there were still bottlenecks at the airport. So I assume the situation is basically unchanged from last night if Wolf decided to run with the same report.

I understand that the main seaport and airport are hobbled (although the airport is probably taking more flights since the U.S. military gussied it up than before the earthquake). And I understand about the road blockages. The roads were a mess even before the earthquake; many are just dirt tracks. And I understand about the normal snafus when so many aid agencies are trying to mesh gears. But 10 percent distribution of aid already on the ground in Haiti would be unacceptable.

A correspondent, who is very well informed, told me that the United Nations is to blame in this situation and that an agreement signed yesterday between the United Nations and the United States is "worthless." (See Reuters report below.)

The agreement came the day after Sanjay Gupta's investigative report for CNN about aid delivery delays.

I would not be surprised to learn that the UN is being obstructive or worse. However: If a man robs you, that's his fault. If he robs you a second time, you're both to blame. Third time, it's your fault.

In the same manner, I'm having trouble accepting that President Obama's administration can't arm-twist UN officials about this issue. If UN Ambassador Susan Rice doesn't want to get Ban-ki Moon upset, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or even President Obama has to do the job for her.

I am now on a very short fuse about the situation; this, after receiving a Bloomberg report that the UN has an "emergency" summit planned for January 25 "to coordinate aid for earthquake-stricken Haiti."

When you read further, this emergency summit is to discuss "long-term reconstruction and arrangements for a donor conference to be held in March, the UN said in a statement."

Uh, how about an emergency summit right now to discuss problems with the short-term aid?

With that off my chest here's the Reuters report:
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The United States and United Nations signed an agreement on Friday clarifying the world body's responsibility for coordinating the international relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The agreement comes after U.N. officials, aid workers and diplomats had complained privately about tensions between the United Nations and U.S. military in the early days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, as governments scrambled to get urgently needed aid to the poor Caribbean nation.

"This agreement formalizes the working relationship between the United States and the United Nations on the ground in Haiti, and ensures that this cooperation will continue in the challenging days and weeks ahead," U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said in a statement.

With an enlarged maximum strength of 12,651 troops and police, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, is responsible for helping Haitian authorities maintain "a secure and stable environment," the agreement says.

"The United Nations is coordinating the international response to the Haitian earthquake," it says.

But it makes clear that the Haitian government has primary responsibility for the response to the earthquake, security and in leading the recovery and reconstruction process.

The agreement also says the U.S. military, which has over 13,000 military personnel on the ground or offshore in Haiti, will not don blue helmets but operate under U.S. command.

It says the U.S. government commits to supporting relief work the United Nations says should have priority.

[...]

Edmond Mulet, acting head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said on Friday that coordination in delivering aid in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere had improved and was getting better every day.

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