Doctors Without Borders in Haiti: Why Couldn't They Land?

Bill Clinton is on the ground in Haiti with Chelsea touring the rubble. I'm elated the former president was able to get permission from the Defense Department to fly in. It's no small feat, I'm telling you. Because apparently not everyone can.

Take Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the highly respected international medical humanitarian organization. You know, the one Sandra Bullock gave $1 million this week before she won the Golden Globe? They've been in Haiti for years. They have hundreds of medical staff in place, and are working in five hospitals in Port-au-Prince. They know the country. They're experts in delivering medical aid. These are the people you want on the ground after a killer earthquake? Am I right?

Then why was an MSF cargo plane carrying, among other badly needed supplies, an inflatable surgical hospital, not allowed to land in Port-au-Prince on Saturday and re-routed to the Dominican Republic? Despite assurances from the United Nations and the Defense Department that its planes would be allowed in?

If this is an air traffic control problem, they need to fix it now. Maybe Bill could help?

The inflatable hospital included two operating theaters, an intensive care unit, 100 beds, an emergency room and equipment for sterilizing material. The supplies had to be sent by truck, so the hospital didn't arrive in Haiti until a day later.

To be fair, a plane carrying supplies for the other half of the field hospital did arrive in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. But for a while even that looked sketchy. And as Isabelle Jeanson, an MSF Emergency Communications Officer wrote in an email from Haiti on Sunday: "MSF is still concerned that delivery of vital supplies is being delayed." As the crisis in Haiti drags on survivors are dying. Even if they're rescued, they're slowly and painfully dying from their wounds because they can't get into surgery quickly enough. And they can't get into surgery because the hospitals have collapsed and the makeshift ones aren't equipped to do surgery. That is, except for the Israelis. They had a modern field hospital up and running in seconds. But they can't treat 2 million people.

The MSF plane that was dispatched to the Dominican Republic was carrying medical supplies for Choscal hospital in Cite Soleil, which had barely a 24-hour supply left for the 500 patients waiting to have surgery. Even under horrific conditions, MSF teams performed more than 90 operations in the day after their operating theatre was functional. Like other aid groups in Haiti, Doctors Without Borders is hurting too. Some of their Haitian staff members died. Some they haven't been able to reach. And then there is the frustration of trying to help. Of not having the right equipment. The heartache of watching people die when you know you could have saved them.

As Jeanson wrote in her email on Sunday: "Patients who were not critical only three days ago are now in critical phases. This means that people will die from preventable infections. It's horrible. It's really so terrible that people are begging for help and we can't help them all to save their lives!"