Response focuses on survivor needs

Disaster organizations send supplies, staff as relief efforts take shape


Earthquake survivors receive medical treatment at an encampment in front of Port-au-Prince's Presidential Palace, where many Haitians have sought temporary shelter.
Credit: UN Photo/Logan Abassi

Disaster response organizations continued to mobilize efforts for a massive relief effort following the catastrophic Haiti earthquake, even as communication challenges continue to complicate efforts to get an accurate picture of what is needed most.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck just 10 miles from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

Thousands of buildings that were damaged in the capital city include the National Palace, the United Nations headquarters building, hotels, hospitals and schools. Accurate reports of damage, death and injuries are still unavailable, but the final death toll is expected to number in the tens of thousands.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with 80 percent of its population living below the poverty line, further complicating an already devastating disaster.

Because of the chaotic conditions in Haiti, some disaster response organizations are sending staff to the neighboring Dominican Republic. Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) said Thursday the Diocese of the Dominican Republic was already providing aid to those who were injured in the quake and whom had been able to cross into that country. “Working through the Dominican Republic and utilizing our existing relationships with partners there is one of the most efficient initial approaches for meeting immediate needs,” said Kirsten Muth, ERD’s Interim Director for International Programs

Katie Mears, Program Manager for ERD's USA Disaster Preparedness and Response, will be traveling to the Dominican Republic to further assess the situation and coordinate the agency’s response to this disaster.

“Normally, following a disaster of this magnitude, we would send emergency funds to partners in the affected area, enabling them to obtain the supplies necessary to meet immediate needs such as food, shelter and water,” said Mears.  “However, the lack of resources available on the ground in Haiti makes it necessary to bring in supplies through the Dominican Republic.”  

Church World Service (CWS) has already sent funds to area partners and is preparing to send blankets and emergency kits. They are waiting for additional information from their partners in Haiti. The Haiti office of their European partner, Christian Aid, reported damage to their building and the organizations has been unable to contact some of its staff members.

The Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice reported damage to that CWS-supported school, House of Hope Day School. Because the area has few means to communicate, it is unknown if staff and students are safe.

Pastors and staff from the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) will be traveling to Haiti Monday. When a series of hurricanes struck Haiti in 2008, BDM stepped in to rebuild destroyed and damaged homes, with the help of Haitian churches. Roy Winter, director of BDM, said they believe the houses made it through unscathed.

A BDM work crew was scheduled to visit Haiti on Jan. 23 to finish rebuilding, said Winter, but they are now waiting to hear from partner churches in the area.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) is also sending relief managers to assess local needs. CRWRC’s goal is to provide short-term aid by supplying food, water and shelter and to plan for long-term recovery and rebuilding.

A spokesperson for UMCOR said that organization would be providing emergency response in partnership with groups such as Action by Churches Together, Church World Service, Global Medic and the Methodist Church in Haiti. "We are working with our partners on the ground to provide immediate relief to the people in Haiti," said Melissa Crutchfield.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) announced Thursday it was committing $1 million in emergency aid to assist survivors. ADRA is partnering with Toronto-based Global Medic to provide medical aid for survivors through four mobile medical clinics, each of which can assist up to 1,000 patients a day.

Many relief organizations said a lack of information available from those in Haiti is their biggest obstacle to providing immediate aid. Many are sending funds and preparing supplies while they wait for detailed news of the damage.

Interaction, a Washington-based coalition of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), has created a list on its Website of how many of its members are responding.

The last major earthquakes to occur in Haiti on the Enriquillo fault system were in 1770 and 1751, though there have been many minor earthquakes since, said a spokesperson for the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake was 10 miles from the capital at a depth of more than 6 miles. The USGS reported several aftershocks, the largest hitting 5.9 on the Richter scale.

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More links on Earthquakes


Related Links:

Center for International Disaster Information on Haiti Donations

UMCOR Health Kit Information

Interaction's List of Organizations Responding to Haiti


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