AMMAN, JORDAN, SEPT. 4 -- Inadequate coordination among relief agencies and a lagging international response are prolonging a vast human tragedy, as more than 56,000 Asian workers fleeing Iraq and Kuwait go hungry in brutal desert heat while awaiting evacuation along the Jordanian border, rescue workers said today.

Food riots, interracial friction, diphtheria and hypertension are spreading through the Shaalan 1 and Shaalan 2 camps in the sunburnt no man's land between frontier outposts on either side of the Iraqi-Jordanian border. Jordan, already chafing under the pressure of 105,000 other refugees who have streamed into reception centers in and around Amman, is bracing for hundreds of thousands more to come.

Rebecca Salti, director of the relief organization Save the Children, said that 13 people already have died in the frontier camps and a half-dozen infants have been born to refugee mothers since the exodus into Jordan began.

Crown Prince Hassan, younger brother of Jordan's King Hussein, visited the camps today and lamented an apparent lack of world concern over the problem, which his country seems ill prepared to cope with on its own. Flights chartered to ferry home refugee Indians and Bangladeshis started arriving here today, but the evacuation will be painstakingly slow and costly, United Nations officials said, adding that the use of ships is also being considered.

"While the attention of the world is rightly focused on the Iraqi-Kuwait crisis -- with particular emphasis on the fate of Western nationals held in Iraq -- a human tragedy of the widest dimension has received but scant attention," Hassan said at a news conference.

"The plight of those persons" in the border camps, Hassan said, "has evoked only the faintest of responses from the world community and from a world press more interested in war scenarios than in humanitarian relief."

Hassan said he was considering an "appeal to the {U.N.} secretary general to ask him to appoint a humanitarian representative" to manage the chaotic relief operation better and to provide an international focal point to which the issue could be referred.

The coordinator of the U.N. Relief and Disaster Organization, Assistant Secretary General Mohamed Essafi, said there is "a shortfall of 3,000 tents" for the people already here, while close to 2 million more refugees are expected. "It is the plight of hundreds of thousands of people -- men, women and children -- who have only one goal -- to reach their country," he said in an urgent appeal for more assistance.

Rolf Jenny, a representative of the International Organization for Migration, said the 36-nation group had begun an airlift with 55 chartered aircraft, starting with the destitute Bangladeshi refugees.

More than 40,000 Bangladeshis have fled from Iraq to Jordan, many of them now stranded at the border, and it will take three weeks to repatriate the first 10,000, Jenny said. About 3,800 Sri Lankans also will be among the first to be airlifted home.

Jenny estimated the cost of the air evacuation at $50 million but said this figure did not take into account "what will happen in the future." So far, $7 million has been pledged by Japan, Sweden, Canada, Norway, the United States and Switzerland.

The first chartered Soviet-made Antonov transport plane was scheduled to leave Amman at midnight to carry 450 Bangladeshis home to Dhaka. The Indian government has provided five charter flights a day until Thursday of next week to repatriate out its own people.

While the air evacuation is expected to ease the crisis, it will be very slow in making a difference, as the rate of refugees entering Jordan is accelerating. "It will take 10 days to get 4,500 Bangladeshis out, and we have 10 times that number here," one Western ambassador said.

Essafi and Ali Attiga, the resident coordinator of the U.N. Development Program in Jordan, acknowledged that their efforts did not get underway before Aug. 27.

The number of persons entering Jordan since the Persian Gulf crisis began has now reached 420,000. About 200,000 -- mostly Egyptians, Sudanese and Yemenis -- have already left Jordan, while Palestinians and Kuwaitis have come to stay with relatives and acquaintances.

Migration specialist Jenny said it is the primary responsiblity of each country to organize and finance the repatriation of its citizens, with the United Nations stepping in only when countries are unable to provide the funds.

Despite the organization of several refugee centers around Amman, such as the international trade center at Marj al-Hamam, an International Committee of the Red Cross tent settlement at Zarqa and several other makeshift shelters, the day-to-day management of sanitation, logistics and food delivery is proving a nightmare for Jordanian officials and foreign relief organizations, especially at the Iraqi border post of Ruweished.

"Everybody was slow, and everybody was too late," conceded Save the Children director Salti, an American married to a Jordanian. "As soon as we had organized 18,000 in one camp at Shaalan and 36,000 in another, 10,000 came in the night. It was like landing on the moon. All it is is a lunarscape, with nothing here except the sun in the morning and the cold and scorpions at night."

Salti is trying to arrange for a third camp at the border with help from other organizations.

Relief officials said turf battles between agencies and lack of serious and effective coordination are aggravating the shortages and the scarcity of manpower needed to distribute of relief supplies.

One European ambassador said that unforeseen Jordanian red tape and bad communications had held up donated tents and food for two weeks before they reached Ruweished, an arduous four-hour drive from Amman. "All it takes is one low-ranking official who wants to obey all the rules and won't budge until he gets the necessary order," the ambassador said.

"It is pathetic, and the whole problem is we're amateurs. Designing camps in the middle of the desert is not our specialty," Salti complained.

Eight relief organizations scoured through the souks and shops of Amman to come up with 350 tents, many of them already used. They are still waiting for 350 more from the Jordanian army. The U.N. groups expected to receive 750 tents today to set up temporary housing in the desert, where sheets, blankets and towels are being draped on poles and piles of luggage as makeshift shelters.

Attiga, Jenny, Essafi and Hassan made urgent appeals for more aid but expressed gratitude for the help thus far from non-government organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Doctors of the World, the Jordanian Red Crescent and the Red Cross.

Attiga said the scope of the crisis had not been anticipated as the flow of people swelled into Jordan day after day: "We thought we could manage with what we had."

"This fallout of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis could not have come at a worse time for Jordan and its citizens, who through no fault of their own or their country, have to carry the main brunt of sanctions directed against Iraq," Hassan said. "We should not forget that the situation, critical as it is, may be only the tip of the iceberg. . . . It is obvious that much is needed, and much remains to be done."