In a press conference Wednesday (January 20), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided an update on the massive relief efforts on behalf of the people of Haiti, a humanitarian mission she said was unprecedented.
"We saw the arrival of the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship with more than 600 medical personnel that adds important capacity to our relief efforts," she said about the floating hospital vessel that arrived off the coast of Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. "Already patients are being taken onboard via helicopter and treated. The Comfort adds to what is one of the largest international rescue and relief efforts in history."
Clinton said food, water, medical supplies and other essential aid continue to flow into the country and that aid workers are working around-the-clock to deliver those supplies. But, with a devastated infrastructure in the Caribbean island nation's capital, limited transportation and security issues, the challenges remain steep. "One area we are urgently focused on is the plight of Haitian orphans," she said of the thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of children who were left without parents after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck last Tuesday.
"We will also be doing everything we can to unite the many children and families that have been separated in the aftermath of the earthquake and to do all that we can to expedite the travel of children who were in the line for adoption who have a legal, permanent home [or] guardianship waiting for them. We will not let red tape stand in the way of helping those in need."
According to The New York Times, that process was already under way, as a group of 53 Haitian orphans touched down in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the first of what is expected to be a large wave of children who will arrive in the U.S. after the country loosened its policy on visa requirements to expedite the adoption of parentless Haitian children by American families. It normally takes up to three years to adopt a child from Haiti.
While the latest figures on the death toll from the quake are reported to be around 70,000, rescuers got some unexpected good news late Tuesday when two young children were pulled from a flattened building after spending a week under a pile of rubble. Even for the disaster-hardened rescue team from New York, the rare triumph so late in this disaster was a cause for celebration.
That triumph was tempered by Wednesday morning's 5.9-magnitude aftershock, which provided more reason for survivors to look for ways to escape the decimated capital. Some swam offshore to overcrowded refugee ships floating in coastal waters, while thousands more preferred to stay in massive tent cities on Port-au-Prince's streets rather than risk re-entering quake-damaged buildings.
Head here to learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see Think MTV. Join George Clooney and Wyclef Jean for MTV's "Hope for Haiti" telethon, airing commercial-free Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET.