PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Relief workers began handing out women-only food coupons, launching a new phase of what they hope will be less cutthroat aid distribution to ensure that families and the weak get supplies following Haiti's devastating earthquake.
Young men often force their way to the front of aid delivery lines or steal from it from others, meaning aid doesn't reach the neediest at rough-and-tumble distribution centres, according to aid groups.
The World Food Program coupons can be turned in by women at 16 sites in the capital, and entitle each family to 25 kilograms of rice.
United Nations officials say they are still far short of reaching all two million quake victims estimated to need food aid.
Meanwhile, doctors skirted a bureaucratic logjam to save the life of three critically ill child victims of the earthquake on Sunday, flying them to U.S. hospitals on a private jet to avoid a military suspension of medical evacuation flights.
A five-year-old tetanus victim, a 14-month-old boy critically ill with pneumonia and a baby with third-degree burns were sent to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia by the aid group Partners in Health, based in Boston.
The airlift had been in doubt after the U.S. military stopped medical evacuation flights Wednesday night because of because of apparent concerns over the long-term costs to U.S. public hospitals of absorbing seriously injured patients.
Shortages of food, clean water, adequate shelter and latrines are creating a potential spawning ground for epidemics in a country with an estimated one million people made homeless by the Jan. 12 quake.
In one camp, a single portable toilet served about 2,000 people, forcing most to use a gutter that runs next to an area where vendors cook food and mothers struggle to bathe their children.
Survivors have erected flimsy shelters of cloth, cardboard or plastic in nearly every open space left in the capital.
Women wait until night to bathe out of buckets, shielding their bodies behind damaged cars and trucks. Water is recycled - used first for brushing teeth, then for washing food, then for bathing.
"My one-year-old has had diarrhea for a week now, probably because of the water," said Bernadel Perkington, 40. "When the earthquake happened I had 500 gourdes (about 15 U.S. dollars), which I was using for clean water for her. The money for that ran out yesterday."
The crowding and puddles of filthy water that breed mosquitoes have begun to spread diseases such as dengue and malaria, which were already endemic in Haiti. Some hospitals report that half the children they treat have malaria, though the rainy season - the peak time for mosquitoes - won't start until April.
Tight quarters also expose people to cholera, dysentery, tetanus and other diseases.
The UN, Oxfam and other aid organizations have started to dig latrines for 20,000 people, said Silvia Gaya, UNICEF's co-ordinator for water and sanitation, even if that's a small fraction of the 700,000 people that officials said were living in the camps last week.
"In some parks, there is no physical space" even to dig latrines, Gaya said.
In other developments:
Ten Americans were detained by Haitian police Saturday as they tried to bus 33 children across the border into the Dominican Republic, allegedly without proper documents.