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Haiti earthquake: Obama pledges $100 million. Send tents, says aid official.

After the Haiti earthquake, which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton estimates affected 3 million people, President Obama pledged $100 million in US assistance. Aid groups say food, medicine and "tents and more tents" are needed. Getting the port up and running and roads open are also top priority.
 

By Staff writer / January 14, 2010

An aerial photo taken Wednesday during a joint assessment mission conducted by the Red Cross/Red Crescent and the European Community Humanitarian Organization and provided by The American Red Cross shows a tent city of survivors in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince after Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

American Red Cross/AP

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Since the Haiti earthquake that struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, countries and individuals around the world have opened their wallets for what is going to be one of the largest relief operations in Caribbean history.

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US President Barack Obama has set aside $100 million for emergency efforts and dozens of other countries and aid organizations have pitched in. Doctors are flying in from Cuba, aid workers are arriving from Brazil, and pledges of money are coming from almost every corner of the globe.

"Help is arriving. Much, much more help is on the way," President Obama said Thursday morning "Even as we move as quickly as possible, it will take hours and in many cases days to get all of our people and resources on the ground... right now in Haiti roads are impassable (and) the main port is badly damaged.

Organizing a relief effort so large – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday morning that 3 million people have been affected by the earthquake – and with so many moving parts, will not be easy. With roads clogged with debris, collapsed cranes at the capital's port, and shortages of everything from clean water to the fuel needed to deliver aid supplies to the corners of the city, aid workers say it could take until sometime next week before the aid operation lurching into existence resembles something like a well-oiled machine.

Large relief operations have many of the same needs of an army on the march, and like an army logistics often represents an Achilles heel. It's one thing to pile up food and water at dockside or at an airport, but something else entirely to get it out into the field where it's needed most.

Niurka Pineiro, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is focusing on providing temporary shelter to Haitians who've been sleeping outside since the quake, says distribution is a major hurdle the IOM and other aid groups will have to clear in the coming days.

"As you can imagine, logistics are currently a nightmare," she says. "Our chief of mission, Vincent Houver, and his staff have no reliable Internet connection, no phone connections. We're hearing that there's been a lot of damage to the port, and there are also reports of fuel shortages. That's an urgent issue. How do you get big trucks to deliver aid without fuel?"

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