US ‘to resume’ Haiti airlifts

Military resumes medical evacuations as relief agencies introduce coupons for aid.

haiti medical evacuation
The flights were earlier halted following disputes over administration and cost [GALLO/GETTY]

The US government has said it will resume medical flights for critically injured Haitians to be treated in the US, days after it suspended medical evacuations from the earthquake-devastated country.

special report
Special Report: Haiti earthquake

The White House said quake victims will be flown out of Haiti early on Monday after it received assurances that additional medical capacity exists in the US and among its international partners for the patients.

“We determined that we can resume these critical flights,” Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said late on Sunday.

“Patients are being identified for transfer, doctors are making sure that it is safe for them to fly, and we are preparing specific in-flight paediatric care aboard the aircraft where needed.”


Millions are in need of food, water and medical care in Port-au-Prince [Reuters]

Vietor said Haiti’s government estimated more than 200,000 people were injured in the magnitude 7 quake on January 12 that killed at least another 200,000.

The White House has said hospitals were running out of space and officials were working to increase capacity in Haiti and the US, as well as aboard the USNS Comfort hospital ship.

The US military had brought hundreds of critically injured Haitians to the US aboard its planes – most to Florida hospitals – before halting the flights on Wednesday amid a dispute over where they should be hospitalised and who should pay the costs.

Before the latest announcement, the medical group Partners in Health transferred three critically-ill children to a hospital in Philadelphia on Sunday using a private jet to bypass the US military’s order to suspend flights.

Food coupons

In video

Al Jazeera’s Monica Villamizar reports on new approach to food distribution

In Haiti itself meanwhile aid agencies on Sunday introduced a coupon system to distribute food directly to women, hoping to bring a sense of order to a relief effort hampered by often chaotic food distributions in the capital.

The World Food Programme (WFP) set up 16 new distribution sites where long lines snaked through the city centre at the designated women-only aid stations.

Each woman with a numbered coupon given by relief workers is allowed to collect one 25-kilogramme bag of rice from the distribution points, overseen by hundreds of US troops.

Al Jazeera’s Monica Villamizar reporting from Port-au-Prince says it is too early to say if the new system will work but the separation of men and women at distribution points appears to be a positive move.

Our correspondent said many women were saying they were happy to collect food and felt safer with the more systematic and orderly approach to food distribution.

The WFP and other relief groups have been struggling with huge logistical problems to feed survivors in the earthquake-shattered city, seeking to prevent hungry survivors’ anger over aid delays from erupting into violence.

Aid agencies hope to smoothen distribution using coupons [Photo: Paul Werdel]

In recent weeks, some food handouts turned unruly and violent, with mobs of hungry, desperate survivors overwhelming aid workers and their UN peacekeeper escorts.

In some cases, UN troops have used tear gas and Mace spray and fired warning shots to try to restore order, but without proper control, aid workers say children, the sick and elderly often miss out on getting the help they need.

Jacques Montouroy, a spokesman and logistics coordinator for the Catholic Relief Services aid group, said about 1,650 bags of rice were handed out without incident from the back of trucks.

“You have to install discipline… This is the only way for food to trickle down to everybody,” he added.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies