A Race Against Time to Get Help to Haitians After the Earthquake
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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
Food. Water. Medicine. Hope. All that and more is urgently needed after a powerful earthquake wrecked much of Haiti's capital on Tuesday.
Bodies lay in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Some estimates are as high as one hundred thousand dead. Each passing hour cuts the chances of survival for the trapped and untreated.
Other countries moved quickly to send rescuers and supplies. But the airport is damaged and crowded with planes. The main seaport was also damaged. Blocked roads and limited communications have only further slowed aid efforts. Anger is a growing concern.
President Obama announced an immediate one hundred million dollars for relief efforts. Thousands of American troops should be in the area by Monday. An aircraft carrier and more helicopters arrived Friday, and a hospital ship is expected by the end of next week.
People have donated millions of dollars through text messages to the Red Cross and other aid groups. But the public was warned to be careful of false appeals.
Haiti is the poorest nation in the western half of the world. The former French colony in the Caribbean has a history of political violence and natural disasters. Yet before this week, there were signs of promise of better times ahead for its nine million people.
On Friday, the United Nations made an emergency appeal for more than half a billion dollars. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said many of the three million people in the Port-au-Prince area lack food, water, shelter and electricity.
BAN KI-MOON: "A major humanitarian effort is now well underway. Although it is inevitably slower and more difficult than any of us would wish, we are mobilizing all resources as fast as we possibly can."
Ban Ki-moon also said he will visit Haiti "very soon."
President Obama spoke Friday by phone with Haiti's President Rene Preval, who himself lost his home in the quake.
BARACK OBAMA: "I pledged America's continued commitment to the government and the people of Haiti in the immediate effort to save lives and deliver relief and in the long-term effort to rebuild. President Préval and I agreed that it is absolutely essential that these efforts are well coordinated among the United States and the government of Haiti; with the United Nations, which continues to play a central role; and with the many international partners and aid organizations that are now on the ground."
The new head of the United States Agency for International Development is supervising the American disaster relief. Rajiv Shah became administrator of USAID earlier this month.
He is a trained medical doctor and an agricultural expert. He held top jobs at the Department of Agriculture and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Doctor Shah is the thirty-six year old son of Indian immigrants.
USAID had been without a leader for almost a year, raising concerns about its future. The agency has changed over the years -- it now does its work largely through private contractors.
The Obama administration wants to raise development to the same level of importance as defense and diplomacy. Rajiv Shah says he plans to hire more experts. USAID now provides twenty billion dollars a year to development projects around the world. The plan is to increase that to fifty billion a year by two thousand twelve.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.