Haiti

ACT Alliance support reaching Haiti

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In the chaos of aid distribution, ACT Alliance members are managing to get food, temporary shelter, water cleaning materials and expertise to the Haitian capital.

Prospery Raymond, country manager for ACT member Christian Aid, reports that he is concerned there may not otherwise be enough food in the country to last more than a few days.

The streets are still thronged with homeless people, walking for hours to find food and water. As well as widespread destruction of homes, schools and other buildings, major damage has been done to key water, electricity and road systems. Port-au-Prince's heavily congested airport is finally allowing some aid to get through, however it comes as Haitians turn on each other in the increasingly desperate fight for food and water.

One of the largest alliances working on relief in Haiti, ACT Alliance has four members working in-country and is being supplemented by relief from others. From the January 17 ACT teleconference:

* Christian Aid reports it has started distributing food and tents, hygiene kits, blankets, jerry cans and water purifiers to 15,000 people in eight communities, targeting areas getting little help from other agencies. It has also sent in a medical team through a specialist healthcare organisation. CA hopes to source food from markets in Haiti if possible, but all other items will definitely need to come in from outside. The team in Haiti is co-ordinating with colleagues in the Dominican Republic to source materials there where possible.

* Lutheran World Federation is constructing a camp for ACT members at its compound, with additional space for member staff. Cooking facilities are provided, and Internet connection is good. Water supply is problematic. LWF plans to recruit supplementary staff.

* Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe has programmed delivery of 15 tonnes of food relief together with Caritas Germany.

* Lutheran World Relief plans to send a shipment of food products.

* Church World Service and Christian Aid offices are ready to serve as a base for receiving emergency items. ACT member staff in St Domingo are on the way to Haiti.

* Norwegian Church Aid is prioritizing water sanitation equipment and psychosocial work. It has sent a team of water engineers, a communicator and a logistician. Two Norwegian advisors with expertise in gender and childrens' protection are also going.

ACT members report that buildings remain very fragile and continue to collapse. Rain has compounded the situation of the million people without shelter. The border with the Dominican Republics remains insecure. Health risks of contagious diseases are getting serious. Other towns are also badly affected and many areas outside Port-au-Prince remain unexplored. An unknown number of staff from ACT members in the country remains unaccounted for.

The United Nations has launched an appeal for $562m intended to help three million people for six months. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon describes as one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades and implored for calm in the beleagured capital. The number of dead is still unknown, Estimates of the numbers killed by the earthquake range from 50,000 to at least 200,000, the BBC reports.

No-one immune from the devastation

The earthquake has affected every part of society, including the people normally in charge of vital services, ACT's Christian Aid reports. For instance, the UN chain of command was badly hit by the loss of staff, although MINUSTAH started collecting dead bodies from the streets on Friday. The Government had already started putting bodies into mass graves. Some people in Port-au-Prince have lost all their money because it is in their collapsed homes.

Phones have not been working although an Irish telephone company, Digicel, said that it has got its network going again and that calls are free, to allow people to call their families and let them know they are alive.

There has been a lot of social solidarity, with people helping to rescue each other from the rubble. Christian Aid's country manager, Prospery Raymond, was pulled from the wreckage of our office by a passerby. A large number of people, perhaps 100,000, have left the city to stay with friends and family in other parts of the country.

Prospery has neighbours staying in his front yard. Both he and Sarah Wilson slept in cars last night while others are sleeping in tents, because people are so afraid of aftershocks which will cause buildings to collapse further. Aftershocks are still happening and people in the DKH office fled the building yesterday when one occurred. Fortunately, no more damage occurred.

There are also reports that the Dominican Republic has closed its border with Haiti.

Because phones have not been working, Prospery got in touch with Christian Aid partner organisations by visiting the offices and the homes of their staff. They met today to plan a very rapid distribution of thousands of jerry cans in which people can store water, plus water purification equipment, blankets and locally-sourced food.

For more information please contact

Sarah Wilson

swilson@christian-aid.org

sarah_nw35qg@yahoo.com.

+44 7930 341 525.

Tomm Kristiansen

ACT Alliance communications officer

tkr@actalliance.org

0041 22 791 6039 (landline)

0041 79 358 3171 (mobile)

Sandra Cox

ACT Alliance assistant communications officer

sec@actalliance.org

0041 22 791 6711 (landline)

0041 79 681 1868 (mobile)