PORT-AU-PRINCE - U.S. soldiers and Brazilian U.N. troops handed out food and water in one of Haiti's largest slums on Sunday amid criticism that aid was not getting to earthquake victims fast enough.
Survivors camped out in filthy conditions in about 300 makeshift shelters across Haiti's shattered capital, Port-au-Prince. Some complained they were not getting enough aid 12 days after a massive earthquake hit the Caribbean country, despite a huge, U.S.-led international relief effort.
In the capital's gang-ridden slum of Cite Soleil, U.S. Army Humvees formed a corridor alongside cinderblock houses, and hundreds of Haitians lined up to receive food packs, water and crackers.
The slum has long been a flashpoint for violence, but there were no reports of disturbances as the food delivery began.
Creole speakers standing on trucks gave out instructions through loudspeakers, and bags of rice, beans, corn flour and plaster were also being distributed.
The aid we have available ... is being pushed out, said Lieutenant General Ken Keen, commander of the U.S. military operation in Haiti. But the need is tremendous.
Every day is a better day than yesterday. Tomorrow will be a better day than the day before.
Responding to criticisms of the distribution, U.S. Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah said his organisation was doing all it could under difficult circumstances.
We're never going to meet the need as quickly as we'd like, Shah told Reuters. We're going to be here providing the support for a long time.
The January 12, magnitude-7 quake killed up to 200,000 people, Haitian authorities said, and left up to 3 million people hurt or homeless and pleading for medical assistance, food and water in nightmarish conditions in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
Although the United Nations had announced that Haiti's government had halted search-and-rescue operations, international rescue teams managed on Saturday to free a man trapped in the rubble of Port-au-Prince.
After a four-hour rescue operation, the Haitian man was carefully extracted from the ruins of the Hotel Napoli Inn.
He was the latest of more than 130 people who have been pulled alive from under wrecked buildings by rescue teams from around the world.
In addition to the logistical challenges, there were concerns about security for food distribution operations, following the widespread looting of wrecked buildings in Port-au-Prince in the days following the quake.
At a camp in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, people desperate for food swarmed bags of rice being unloaded from a dump truck, even while U.S. and U.N. troops and Haitian police stood guard.
The chaos alarmed aid workers from Plan International, who stopped the food delivery until the crowd could be brought under control with the help of several warning shots from the guards.
Single bags, stamped with the U.S. flag, were handed to every four adults to divide among themselves later. The aid group estimated as many as 15,000 people were in line.
The World Food Program was forced to curtail some distribution activities after attacks on two of its relief convoys on Friday, said Thiry Benoit, the U.N. agency's deputy country director for Haiti.
A maternity hospital in the Petionville suburb put out an urgent plea for food on Saturday, saying it was overflowing with pregnant women and had nothing to feed them. Aid group Food for the Poor said it responded with a shipment of rice, beans and toaster pastries.
World Food Program officials estimated that some aid had reached more than two-thirds of the survivor camps.
Amid the devastation, there were indications Haiti was coming back to life. People waited outside banks that reopened on Saturday, eager to obtain cash to buy food and essential supplies.
Fruits and vegetables appeared plentiful in street stalls, but people said they had little cash to buy them and prices were much higher than before the quake.
The Hope for Haiti Now telethon held on Friday, led by actor George Clooney and Haiti-born rapper Wyclef Jean, raised more than $57 million for relief, organizers said.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Adam Entous, Joseph Guyler Delva and Natuza Nery in Port-au-Prince; Writing by Eric Beech and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Paul Simao)