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Relief workers face challenges distributing deluge of supplies

45 tons of food reaches 15,000 survivors; biker team brings clean drinking water to Port-au-Prince

Relief workers face challenges distributing deluge of supplies

An ADRA motorbike driver uses his bike to power a mobile water filtration system from partner organization Global Medic. The system filters one gallon of water per minute, providing safe drinking water for more than 300 people a day. [photo: Matt Herzel/ADRA International]

More than two weeks after the earthquake, relief agencies are fighting blocked roads and lack of centralized organization while attempting to distribute food and fresh water to Haitians around the capital of Port-au-Prince, workers said.

Tasks that would take a matter of hours under normal circumstances can take days, said Dan Weber, an Adventist freelance videographer.

"Once you find out where [supplies are] sitting at the airport, you have to figure out how to transport them and then you have to arrange for security," Weber said. "That means you have to have [United Nations] troops there to guard the convoy as you're getting it through."

Medical supplies from Adventist-run Florida Hospital and partner organization Harvest International arrived in Haiti last Thursday morning, Weber said, but ADRA workers were unable to deliver them to the hospital until Sunday night.

"Half the streets are blocked," Weber said. "You have to know the routes -- we had maps of the blocked streets. You drive along and next thing you know you find a couple hundred people living in the street in tents."

Weber added that while the amount of aid pouring into Haiti can be beneficial, there are unavoidable side effects.

"Logistically, it's a nightmare. You have so many different aid groups trying to come in and help, which is wonderful, but trying to coordinate all that with the U.N. ... it's a tough process right now," he said.

Despite the obstacles, ADRA workers distributed 100,000 pounds, or 45 tons, of rice, beans and other food items to more than 15,000 displaced survivors still living on the campus of the Haitian Adventist University, the agency reported. The distribution, which took place Monday, was the latest of several ADRA-assisted projects.

ADRA and partner organization Global Medic also trained 20 Haitians with motorbikes to set up portable filtration systems in areas without access to safe water.

The drivers travel around the city, pumping clean water and handing out purification tablets. For their time, the drivers receive food, a small salary and reimbursement for their fuel.

ADRA workers in Haiti say they hope to have a total of 30 bike drivers soon.

The death toll for Adventist Church members is currently 600, church leaders reported. Half of the 115 collapsed churches in the region are considered a total loss, and roughly 25,000 Adventists are homeless. Local church offices and university dormitories also sustained heavy damage.

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