THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Child quake victims flown to US

Haitians evacuated to Boston, Philadelphia

Dr. Phuoc Le (right) and a pilot transferred 5-year-old Betina Joseph (left) and a 14-month-old with pneumonia to a private jet. Dr. Phuoc Le (right) and a pilot transferred 5-year-old Betina Joseph (left) and a 14-month-old with pneumonia to a private jet. (Andres Leighton/ Associated Press)
By Frank Bajak and Paisley Dodds
Associated Press / February 1, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Doctors skirted a bureaucratic logjam to save the lives of three critically ill victims of Haiti’s earthquake yesterday, flying them to US hospitals on a private jet to avoid a military suspension of medical evacuation flights.

A 5-year-old tetanus victim, a 14-month-old boy critically ill with pneumonia, and a baby with third-degree burns were sent to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia by the Boston aid group Partners in Health.

The airlift had been in doubt after the US military suspended medical evacuation flights Wednesday night because of apparent concerns over the long-term costs to US public hospitals of absorbing seriously injured patients.

“This is a good day,’’ said Dr. Louise Ivers, Partners in Health’s clinical director in Haiti. “These are three children who would have died if they had stayed here. It’s the little successes like that that keep us going here.’’

Five-year-old Betina Joseph, who developed tetanus from a small cut on her thigh, was in danger of dying if she could not reach a US intensive care unit and get a feeding tube and oxygen through her locked jaw, doctors said.

“We have 100 critically ill patients who will die in the next day or two if we don’t medevac them,’’ Dr. Barth Green, chairman of the University of Miami’s Global Institute for Community Health and Development, said Friday.

The White House said last night that US officials were restarting the military evacuation flights out of Haiti after receiving assurances that additional medical capacity exists in the United States and its international partners.

US Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten said about 435 earthquake victims had been evacuated before the suspension

Governor Charlie Crist of Florida told ABC News’ “Good Morning America’’ yesterday that he was puzzled by the suspension. He said that 700 people had come from Haiti to Florida over the past 24 hours, and that the state was still willing to help emergency cases.

“It’s all hands on deck here in the Sunshine State,’’ Crist said. “We’re welcoming Haitians with open arms and probably done more than any other state and happy to continue to do so.’’

Also yesterday, the United Nations World Food Program began distributing food directly to women in targeted food lines, largely avoiding the violent jostling that has disrupted aid since the earthquake.

The World Food Program and its partners, including World Vision, borrowed an approach that has worked in other disaster zones. The agencies fanned out across Port-au-Prince, distributing coupons to be redeemed for bags of rice at 16 sites. They plan to continue the system daily for the next two weeks.

Also getting aid were elderly and disabled people and some men, who were allowed into line if women in their household were unable to come.

Young men often have forced their way to the front of aid delivery lines, or have stolen from others, meaning aid does not reach the neediest at rough-and-tumble distribution centers, according to aid groups.

Rosedithe Menelas, 79, gingerly descended concrete steps with a bag of rice perched on her head Sunday. She passed it off to her daughter-in-law, who quickly disappeared behind the faded leopard-print sheets that are the walls of their makeshift home on the crowded turf of Haiti’s National Stadium.

In earlier attempts to get food, Menelas and thousands of other women across Haiti’s capital had to battle with men at food handouts that had been chaotic and dangerous scrums.

“Every time they give out food there’s too much trouble,’’ said Menelas, collapsing into a small wooden chair as two grandchildren quickly scrambled into her lap. “Today, we finally got something.’’

“Our experience around the world is that food is more likely to be equitably shared in the household if it is given to women,’’ World Food Program spokesman Marcus Prior said at the stadium, now a sprawling encampment of families left homeless by the quake.

UN officials say they are still far short of reaching all 2 million quake victims estimated to need food aid.

White House officials said they were working to increase hospital capacity in Haiti and aboard the USNS Comfort hospital ship as well as in the United States.

Colonel Rick Kaiser said yesterday that the US Army Corps of Engineers has been asked to build a 250-bed tent hospital to relieve pressures on the Comfort and on Haitian facilities where earthquake victims are being treated under tarpaulins in hospital grounds.

Several Port-au-Prince hospitals were damaged or destroyed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.