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Disaster Strikes Haiti: Relief Efforts in a Race Against Time

On Jan. 12, 2010 just two weeks after the start of the new year, a natural disaster struck Haiti, in the form of an 7.0 magnitude Earthquake.

Many countries are offering aid to Haiti in the form of supplies, military aid and in some cases, allowing those visiting other nations to extend their stay illegally. However, those nations attempting to help Haiti are facing major challenges along the way.

According to the New York Times, relief efforts may be delayed because the airport, seaport, roads and power supplies have been damaged by the earthquake.

“The big challenge is going to be getting things unloaded and getting it to the people who need it,” Florian Westphal, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva told the New York Times. “Only military airplanes that don’t require additional people to unload have been able to land.”

On top of the apparent challenges that Haiti will face in terms of receiving aid, they are also experiencing difficulties giving those who need medical care the proper attention they need. Haiti already struggles with treating patients in a country with high rates of rare tropical and infections diseases.

“What you have is the perfect storm of infection,” Dr. Peter Hotez, head of the department of microbiology at George Washington University told CNN. “What you have is a breakdown. It is already a fragile infrastructure with high rates of infectious and neglected tropical disease. Now there are potential breakdowns in sanitation, clean water, housing and subsequent crowding. That’s a terrible mix.”

The World Health Organization told the Voice of America that at least eight hospitals have been damaged or destroyed in Haiti.

While disaster relief efforts are in place, time is of the essence and it is clear that it is going to take time before Haiti’s needs are met to the full extent. It also seems that many countries and relief organizations are in a race to help Haiti, but may be causing more problems. Haiti is obviously in bad shape, but it seems to me that instead of racing each other to get to the punch first disaster organizations, governments, etc. should be coordinating with one another.

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