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Associated Press/Photo by Lynne Sladky

Crying for help

Haiti | Hard-pressed Haitians seek assistance as aid groups face logistical challenges

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-The smell of death clings to the rocks in Haiti. On the streets leading away from the still-chaotic airport in the capital city, Haitians have begun to stack chunks of rubble in small piles on the roadsides, waiting for a clearing away that could take months. In the meantime, aid workers report that the rubble sometimes contains pieces of body parts-victims not fully recovered from the ruins of their homes and other buildings.

No such grisly site was immediately visible on my drive on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince Wednesday afternoon, but the stench of decomposing flesh hung thick in the air, an aroma of death in a city crying for help. Haitian officials say they have recovered 70,000 bodies, and estimate that the death toll from the Jan. 12 quake could reach between 100,000 and 150,000 people.

Back on the hot tarmac at the Port-au-Prince airport, a different aroma lingered: heavy fumes of aviation fuel from U.S. Air Force jets, corporate planes, and commercial aircraft from as far away as Iceland, crowded onto a tiny runway managed by a new kind of "tower"-a handful of U.S. soldiers huddled around a folding table in a grassy area directing flights. Amazingly, those flights moved smoothly, brimming with supplies like water, tarps, and medical supplies.

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But for many, the aid isn't coming fast enough. As I stood on the runway waiting for ground transportation with a team of doctors, nurses, and logistics folks from Samaritan's Purse, a Haitian woman quickly approached. "Do you have medical supplies?" she asked. When a team member explains their supplies are headed for a needy hospital on the outskirts of town, the woman asks, "Do you know people are dying right outside?"

Aid groups do know this but find the logistical challenges of delivering aid maddening. Blindly walking into needy crowds is dangerous, but needy crowds often can't make their way to the aid stations being set up around town. A 6.1 aftershock Wednesday morning only worsened transportation woes: Police blocked roads and people moved farther away from buildings to escape injury, clogging roads already nearly impassable.

Still, mission hospitals like the one supplied by Samaritan's Purse at Baptist Haiti Mission in nearby Fermathe are seeing hundreds of patients. At the airport Wednesday afternoon, Paul Osteen-a Texas surgeon and brother of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen-said conditions were improving, though injuries remain serious. For now, Osteen is mostly performing amputations.

As hardworking aid groups assess their next moves, so do hard-pressed Haitians. On a sagging sheet hanging on a cracked wall just outside the airport exit, one group of Haitians tried to make their plight clear: "Help needed here."

Related coverage:


'Still in shock' | Haiti is hit by a massive earthquake followed by aftershocks, with an epicenter near the capital, Port-au-Prince | Mindy Belz and Jamie Dean | Jan. 12, 2010
Helping Haiti | WORLD provides a list of relief organizations accepting donations to assist earthquake victims in Haiti | The Editors | Jan. 13, 2010
Search and rescue | U.S. disaster experts, the U.S. military, and private relief groups head to earthquake-devastated Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 13, 2010
In the dark | Haitian-Americans hope to contact loved ones and quickly send aid back home to family and friends | Alisa Harris | Jan. 13, 2010
Weeping and waiting | Haitian earthquake victims await help, but obstacles slow relief efforts | Jamie Dean | Jan. 14, 2010
Desperation | Too many Haitians are in a holding pattern awaiting aid, as relief organizations try to make progress | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Long night | With tens of thousands of casualties, Haitians weep and wait for morning | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Deliverance | A group of orphans arrive safely in Pittsburgh while relief organizations report progress in Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 19, 2010
Leaving Port | Beyond the capital city are rural communities equally devastated by the quake and in need of help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
The new normal | As life and death continue their morbid mingling, relief groups forge ahead to help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
Finding home | Now that search-and-rescue efforts have been called off, attention turns to providing shelter for survivors | Jamie Dean | Jan. 23, 2010
Chaotic aid | Relief groups attempt to help Haitians despite murky rules, government interference, and the lack of a cohesive plan | Jamie Dean | Jan. 28, 2010
Aftershock | Caregivers predict a second wave of death, as Haitians find moments of deliverance amid days of devastation from one of the modern world's worst natural disasters | Jamie Dean | Jan. 29, 2010
Homecoming | For Haitians orphaned before the quake, it means leaving home and starting over | Alisa Harris | Jan. 29, 2010
Crisis giving | Instant need calls for long-term strategy | Rusty Leonard | Jan. 29, 2010
An indecent grief | First lamentations, then comfort that strengthens more than soothes | Mindy Belz | Jan. 29, 2010
Hope for Haiti? (audio file) | Hear WORLD news editor Jamie Dean discuss her visit to the earthquake-ravaged country | Nick Eicher | Feb. 1, 2010
Despair and salvation | While the UN grapples with unruly crowds, The Salvation Army peacefully distributes food | Jamie Dean | Feb. 2, 2010
Crossing lines | Failing to heed sound advice, 10 Americans now find themselves facing kidnapping charges in Haiti | Jamie Dean | Feb. 4, 2010
Haiti's plight (audio file) | A discussion of the country's days of devastation and moments of deliverance | Jamie Dean | Feb. 5, 2010
Stress management | Helping Haitians recover takes zeal-with wisdom | Jamie Dean | Feb. 12, 2010
Taking charge | In quake aftermath, build new cities, says Haitian ambassador (and Bible translator) Raymond Joseph | Mindy Belz | Feb. 12, 2010
Houses of God | Grand-Goave, Haiti | The Editors | Feb. 12, 2010
Living water | Water Missions International offers long-term solutions for clean, drinkable water | Angela Lu | Feb. 13, 2010
Building blocks | While Christian Aid Ministries provides for the immediate needs of quake victims, it looks ahead to helping the country rebuild | Angela Lu | Feb. 16, 2010
Close quarters | ActionAid helps homeless Haitians deal with sanitation and security issues at camps set up in Port-au-Prince | Angela Lu | Feb. 23, 2010
Hardest hit | With nearly half a million orphaned children before the quake, Haiti's challenge to parent them just got bigger | Jamie Dean | Feb. 26, 2010
The search for miracles | Port-au-Prince is a city desperately seeking turnaround-and that's before the earthquake | Jamie Dean | March 12, 2010
Hope in the darkness | World Hope International offers Haitians practical assistance and spiritual guidance | Angela Lu | March 24, 2010
Night crawlers | A new disaster threatens defenseless women and children in Haitian tent cities: rape | Jamie Dean | March 25, 2010
Homecoming | Missionary Patrick Lataillade, who nearly died in the quake, returned to help Haitians this week | Angela Lu | March 27, 2010
Hashing out Haiti | As the UN makes recovery plans, Haitians struggle for the basic necessities for survival | Jamie Dean | March 31, 2010

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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