Aid For Haiti Earthquake Victims Finally Getting Through

Confusion on the ground has led to a bottleneck of lifesaving supplies.

More than a week after a massive 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, nearly leveling the capital of Port-au-Prince, desperately needed aid shipments are finally speeding up and getting to the victims of the disaster.

According to CNN, U.S. officials have begun taking steps to alleviate the bottleneck that has slowed down the flow of food, water and medical aid to the thousands of wounded and dying living on the streets of the ruined port city.

An unnamed senior administration official acknowledged on Wednesday that the food and medical supplies were not getting to victims fast enough, explaining that military personnel on the ground were sometimes confused about what was on the dozens of planes flying into Port-au-Prince airport carrying supplies in the week since the quake struck on January 12.

To alleviate that problem, the U.S. military has stationed aid officials in the airport control tower to assess and log the contents of each flight to speed up the flow of aid. Additionally, a Web-based system has been set up that will allow aid groups and donor countries to track when flights are scheduled to land and what supplies are onboard. One of the challenges is that the single-runway airport has been struggling to handle the crush of air traffic of up to 180 flights a day.

Because the procedural rules of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti only allow aid workers to work without security during daylight, the arrival of 4,000 more U.S. troops will allow American soldiers to take over a lion's share of the security detail and speed up the process of aid disbursement.

At press time, at least 72,000 are confirmed dead, though experts predict that many more could die in the coming weeks and months due to the lack of medical attention, infection of untreated injuries and water-borne diseases.

"There are still thousands of patients with major fractures, major wounds, that have not been treated yet," Dr. Eduardo de Marchena, a University of Miami cardiologist working in a tent hospital near the airport told The New York Times. "There are people, many people, who are going to die unless they're treated." For the most seriously ill, de Marchena said, getting airlifted out of Haiti offers the best chance of survival.

While the World Food Program said on Wednesday that it had distributed food to more than 200,000 people so far, officials acknowledged that it could be up to a month before it can get similar aid to the more than 2 million people displaced by the quake.

With water and power still out at the General Hospital in the capital, medical supplies are running short and fuel is low for generators. Doctors at other hospitals report that they've resorted to using vodka to sterilize instruments and sending health workers to the market to buy hacksaws for amputations.

Some good news came on Wednesday with the arrival of the U.S. navy hospital ship Comfort, which is able to attend to the more seriously injured. Even with the thousands of doctors on the ground, though, the organization Partners in Health estimated that 20,000 Haitians a day were dying from lack of urgently needed surgery.

After a strong 5.9 aftershock rattled the ground and jangled nerves on Wednesday, officials on the ground acknowledged that the psychological needs of the battered survivors must also be addressed. A professor of psychology at the University of Haiti said a team of trauma counselors has been sent out into the streets to speak to victims.

"We are sending them out with basic instructions," said psychology professor Jean Robert Cheri. "First, listen to people, let them verbalize their feelings. Second, don't promise them any material aid, because you can't deliver."

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.