12 February 2010
U.S. government agencies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on rescue and relief efforts in Haiti, which is marking the one month anniversary of the powerful earthquake that shattered the country and killed more than 200,000 people.
USAID Administrator Raj Shah is the head of the U.S. humanitarian relief effort for Haiti and he says so far Washington has provided more than $450 million in emergency support since the earthquake devastated the county on January 12th.
Despite the effort Shah told reporters in Washington a large number of Haitians are still in critical need of assistance.
"This remains an urgent humanitarian emergency," he said.
At least one million people were left homeless after the earthquake that leveled the capital Port-au-Prince.
Hundreds of thousands continue to live in tent communities that are the only refuge for people whose homes were destroyed.
Shah says more needs to be done.
"There are areas in shelter, in health, in child protection where our efforts are strong but will continue to get stronger day by day and we are very focused on making sure that every day we are seeing more people and serving more people in critical need," he added.
Shah says significant progress has been made and nearly all people in need have access to food and water at 16 neighborhood distribution points in Port-au-Prince.
Shah says humanitarian and government groups are reaching nearly 200,000 people with two week rations every day.
The USAID administrator says the U.S. hospital ship Comfort and other disaster medical assistance teams have seen more than 30,000 patients and performed hundreds of surgeries.
In a separate briefing at the State Department, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten says the next focus is on the issues of shelter and sanitation.
"We are coming up in the coming weeks onto the rainy season," said Merten. "We want to do the best we can to make sure we have reached and touched as many people as possible, as many families as possible, with plastic sheeting, which is what we are distributing," he said.
Humanitarian officials say it will take years to rebuild the country.
They say the rebuilding will offer an opportunity to create a working infrastructure for Haiti that the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere has never had.