During a surprise visit to survey earthquake damage in Haiti on Thursday, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power announced an additional $32 million in assistance for victims.
"I am pleased here to announce that USAID will provide an additional $32 million as part of a broader American response to support people here affected by the earthquake," Power told reporters during an afternoon press conference at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.
A 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated cities in Haiti's southwest on Aug. 14. Later that day, U.S. President Joe Biden named Power as the senior administration official to coordinate the American post-quake relief effort.
Power told reporters she flew over the hardest-hit towns.
"Today we had a chance to witness the impact of the earthquake and the response firsthand," she said. "First we flew over the affected terrain. And just to see the mountains, the narrow roads, many of which were damaged or blocked with landslides, is to be reminded of the challenge of accessing many, many parts of the affected area."
Power said she had also visited the rural town of Maniche.
"We stopped in Maniche and spoke with families who have been devastated by the earthquake," she said. "According to the mayor of Maniche, of the 9,800 homes in that area, more than 5,000 were destroyed."
Power expressed concern about a "completely flattened" school, whose condition will disrupt education for hundreds of students at the start of the school year. She said she also visited a partially damaged health clinic that was "overwhelmed by need."
"The needs we experienced in Maniche are being experienced, as you well know, by many families in this country," Power said.
Earthquake survivors in remote southern towns have criticized the U.S. for paying too much attention to larger cities while their needs remain unattended to.
To adjust its relief effort, USAID held an hourlong online discussion with members of the Haitian diaspora in the United States on Wednesday, hearing their complaints and suggestions.
Sarah Charles, assistant to the administrator of USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, told participants that aid workers were having trouble reaching remote towns in the mountains.
"One of the challenges that we have right now — and I think why you're seeing more of that assistance flow to some of the bigger towns and villages right now — is because … there are some very remote communities, particularly on some of the hillsides, that I think, to be perfectly frank, I don't think we have reached," Charles said.
Citing security concerns, she added that USAID was relying heavily on barge and air "assets," including helicopters, to move supplies to the area.
"Because of some of that insecurity on the road from Port-au-Prince into Les Cayes in particular, it is impacting, I believe, the speed at which we're able to get out to some of those smaller villages," Charles said.
During her press conference, Power lauded the Haitian USAID surge staff who took part in the immediate post-quake relief effort in concert with the Haitian Civil Protection first responders.
"We have been able to assist or rescue through medevac more than 450 Haitians and, using U.S. government assets, deliver more than 200,000 pounds of vital aid," Power said.