30 Jan 2010

US halts medical evacuations from Haiti

8:30 pm on 30 January 2010

The United States military says it has stopped flying Haitian earthquake victims to the United States for medical attention following concerns by some state governments about who will pay for the treatment.

Florida and Georgia have told the US government that they need help paying for the care.

Navy Captain Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman for the US

Transportation Command, which manages the military's medical emergency airlifts said it does not mean that Haitians are not receiving medical care.

"We have the medical facilities again on the island as well as offshore," he said.

Crime threatens survivors

Desperate earthquake survivors are facing a rise in disease in squalid camps, while criminals are preying on vulnerable survivors sheltering in tents.

National police chief Mario Andresol said bandits were harassing, even raping, women and young girls living in tents in the capital Port-au-Prince.

He said more than 7000 prisoners had escaped on the day of the quake.

Security was already tenuous in Haiti before the 7.0-magnitude quake, but since then the police force has been crippled with hundreds of members dead or missing.

Officials in Haiti say children left orphaned or separated from their families are being targeted by human traffickers and organ traders.

UNICEF's children's advocate, Kent Page, says it's important displaced children in Haiti are protected and reunited with their families.

Disease spreads

A vast foreign aid effort is struggling to meet survivors' needs, after the quake on 12 January which killed around 170,000 people and left one million homeless and short of medicine, food and water.

Several medical teams reported increased cases of diarrhoea in the last few days in Haiti, a UN World Health Organisation spokesman in Geneva said.

There were also reported cases of measles and tetanus, many of them in the makeshift camps that have sprung up in the parks and open spaces of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's government and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are to launch a vaccination programme next week.

There was also a "critical need" for specialists in orthopedic and internal surgery, WHO spokesman Paul Garwood said, estimating that between 30 and 100 amputations were taking place per day at Haitian hospitals.