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World News

January 15, 2010

UN: 6,000 tons of food to be handed out in Haiti

GENEVA (AP) — Some 6,000 tons of food aid will be distributed shortly in Haiti, a U.N. spokeswoman said Friday, adding that reports that U.N. warehouses in Haiti had been looted were overblown.

Officials checked four U.N. food agency warehouses in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Friday after receiving reports from local partners of looting, said Emilia Casella, a World Food Program spokeswoman.

"The food is there," Casella told The Associated Press. "They are also working on getting a peacekeeper contingent to secure the locations."

Casella said 6,000 tons of food stored were found in a damaged warehouse near the capital's Cite Soleil slum, and the biscuits, ready-to-eat meals and other supplies would be handed out shortly. That is 40 percent of the U.N.'s pre-quake food stocks of 15,000 tons in Haiti.

There are six other U.N. warehouses outside the capital, and there were no reports of looting at those, Casella said.

Distributing food and clean water to hungry and thirsty quake survivors is the top challenge of the early relief effort. Looting, bad roads, a ruined port, an overwhelmed Port-au-Prince airport and fears of violence has meant most Haitians have received no help three days after Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude quake.

Casella earlier said regular food stores in the capital "have been cleaned out" by desperate Haitians since the 7-magnitude quake Tuesday killed thousands and left countless more buried under the rubble.

Casella said her agency was working to collect enough ready-to-eat meals to feed 2 million Haitians for a month, and the U.N. was planning to ask governments later Friday for $550 million in humanitarian pledges for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

"The physical destruction is so great that physically getting from point A to B with the supplies is not an easy task," Casella told a news conference. "Pictures can get out instantly ... and that's important because the world needs to know. But getting physically tons and tons of equipment and food and water is not as instant as Twitter or Skype or 24-hour television news."

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