Haitians face catastrophic situation, says ICRC

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Nearly a week after an earthquake shattered Haiti, residents in the country are facing a catastrophic situation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday.

The people of Port-au-Prince, capital of the country, are now struggling even to survive, and nerves are fraying as hungry and thirsty survivors face up to the reality of how much they've lost, the Geneva-based humanitarian agency said in a statement.

Access to shelter, sanitation, water, food and medical care remains extremely limited, according to Riccardo Conti, the ICRC's head of delegation in Haiti.

"Even if the presence of aid agencies is starting to be felt in hospitals and clinics, many medical facilities in Port-au-Prince still lack staff and medicine. Given the scale of the needs, the task facing humanitarian organizations is daunting," Conti said.

The health and sanitation situation is growing increasingly precarious in the makeshift camps, the agency said.

With virtually no infrastructure or services left and vast numbers of people sleeping in the streets, the availability of toilets and fresh water is extremely limited. All over Port-au-Prince, the stench of urine is overpowering.

"We must rapidly address these water and sanitation issues if we want to minimize the risk of an outbreak of disease," said Conti.

Prices for food and transport have skyrocketed since the earthquake on Tuesday and incidents of violence and looting are on the rise as the desperation grows, according to the agency.

The ICRC, which was already present and active in Haiti before Tuesday's earthquake, is currently stepping up efforts to provide help to the Haitians.

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