Haiti 2010 Earthquake Response

Patients die waiting for medical shipments turned away

It has now been a full week since a 7.0 earthquake turned much of Haiti into rubble.  Airport traffic has increased to 180 flights a day, but a plane loaded with medical equipment nevertheless was prevented from landing three times since Sunday, despite a US commitment  on Monday to giving landing priority to humanitarian flights.

“We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying,” said Loris de Filippi, emergency coordinator for the [Doctors Without Borders’] hospital in Cite Soleil.

On January 17, a Disaster Medical Assistance Team arrived from the US to “augment health care capacity and deliver supplies, food, and water” at Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital; just in time for a January 18 photo op with UN special envoy Bill Clinton. Clinton tried to put a positive spin on the hospital’s lack of basic medical supplies, saying, “They have done an amazing job given the adversity they have faced.” But, journalists did not fail to notice the stark contrast with Israel’s medical response, a marvel of efficiency despite a much longer supply line.

Israel reports that within 48 hours of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, January 12, it had deployed several cargo planes with supplies, equipment, and staff to Haiti. An Israeli Defense Forces field hospital, with 40 physicians and 24 nurses, left Thursday evening. The hospital, capable of treating 500 patients, includes an intensive care unit, 2 operating rooms, a pharmacy, and an X-ray lab. It has been in operation since Saturday.

Delays in the distribution of humanitarian aid were the focus of an ABC News report, “Slow Pace of Aid in Haiti.”  In another report, “Where Are the Supplies?” Diane Sawyer tries to get a straight answer from USAID administrator Rajiv Shah to the question, “Is this the best we [the United States] can do?”  Shah tries to divert the conversation by saying the the emergency responders are heroes.  We’ll take that as a “no.”

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