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Q&A: How much aid has reached Haiti?

More than $1 billion in aid to Haiti has been pledged so far by governments from Guatemala to Greece. The UN and other groups are increasing food distribution by the day.

By Staff writer / January 26, 2010

A woman carries a baby and a sack of rice during a food distribution in Port-au-Prince, Monday. People waiting in line for food began to loot the aid supplies in front of the National Palace, as a United Nations security force of Uruguayans tried to stop them.

Ramon Espinosa/AP

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As the Haitian government announced an end to rescue operations, the country and the international community are turning to the long, hard process of reconstruction that Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, at an international aid conference in Montreal Monday, said could take between five and ten years.

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How much aid has reached Haitians?

While teams from around the globe came in to rescue those buried in the rubble, so, too, did surgeons and paramedics, performing procedures in open fields and makeshift clinics under tents. Ciro Ugarte, a disaster expert at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), says that over 150 health-care points have been set up throughout Haiti, and that 135 teams are on the ground providing surgeries and post-operative care.

The UN and other groups are also increasing food distribution by the day. The United Nations World Food Program provided 2 million meals this past Friday, representing about two-thirds of all of those hurt or displaced by the earthquake, up from 1.2 million the day before. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reports it will be providing 14,550 tons of food aid for 1.2 million people over the next two weeks. The Red Cross is providing 3 million pre-packaged meals, in coordination with the WFP, to arrive this week, the group says.

Health and sanitary concerns in the settlements remain a challenge. PAHO reported at the end of last week that up to 80 water distribution sites were serving about 130,000 to 180,000 people each day. The Red Cross is providing clean water to 400,000 people daily. So far, they have distributed more than 2 million liters. UNICEF and Oxfam are two groups building latrines.

At the same time, attention has turned to longer-term temporary settlements. The Haitian government has said it aims to relocate up to 400,000 people outside the city, and international groups are currently clearing spaces to set up tents for tens of thousands of Haitians.

What role is the Haitian government playing?

The Haitian government was weak and poor before the earthquake, and now it needs “more and more and more” aid, said Mr. Bellerive Monday. “In 30 seconds, Haiti lost 60 percent of its GDP,” he said. The government itself is in shambles, with the national palace in collapse, as well as the police headquarters and nearly all of its ministries.

The government is, thus far, putting most of its attention on relocation, leaving relief services like medical and water and food distribution to the international community. The UN reports that 130,000 people thus far have been transported by the government to towns outside the capital, and the demand is not likely to slow. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization has estimated that the numbers of Haitians heading from cities to rural areas could reach 1 million.

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