CARE has shipped water purification sachets from nearby Panama to Port-au-Prince and today deployed additional emergency relief staff to the capital, including personnel who were part of the response to the devastating Hurricane Hanna in 2008. CARE plans an initial 10-ton distribution of high-protein biscuits from warehouses in Haiti, enough for 60,000 emergency meals. And CARE is working together with the World Food Program, which is airlifting 86 metric tons of additional biscuits - enough for half a million emergency meals - from its satellite logistics hub in El Salvador.
CARE hasn't yet determined if all its 133 staff are safe and we are getting reports that many of our staff's family members perished in the quake, particularly children. Children were still in school when the earthquake hit, and many are feared trapped or killed beneath the rubble.
''This is Haiti's darkest day,'' said Joseph Francoeur Jean, CARE's project manager in the nearby Haitian city of Gonaives. ''This was a hard blow for Haiti and our colleagues, some of whom lost children. In addition to the emergency, we also need to think about giving people psychosocial help, and assist them to rebuild their homes and their lives.''
Jean, speaking via Skype, said the immediate needs are first-aid supplies, water purification solution, body bags, and emergency food rations.
Flights into the Port-au-Prince airport have been all but cancelled, and many aid agencies are flying into neighboring Dominican Republic before making their way into Port-au-Prince by land. Hauke Hoops, CARE's Regional Emergency Coordinator, arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic just after midnight today, and spoke before boarding a plane to Port-au-Prince.
''The airport is full of aid workers, rescue teams. It is turning into the humanitarian hub,'' said Hoops, who met with other agencies to determine how to get supplies to disaster-affected communities in Haiti. ''Reports are that there is no water or food in Port-au-Prince. That will be CARE's first priority for the emergency response, and I am working with other agencies to find options to procure food and water for the people affected.''
Sophie Perez, CARE's Country Director in Haiti, was in the CARE office in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake hit. CARE's staff of roughly 30 people in the Port-au-Prince office escaped the office safely, but we are still trying to determine if all other staff in the area are safe.
''Children were still in school when the earthquake hit, so there are many children trapped. It's horrifying,'' Perez said. ''The slums on the hills have also completely collapsed. We've heard of landslides, with entire communities being wiped out.''
Fear of more building collapses during aftershocks has forced many in the capital to stay outside, including CARE staff. ''I spent the night outside by the gate with my children,'' Perez said. ''There were eight aftershocks during the night, and we woke up every time. My children are terrified. Everyone is terrified.''
CARE began working in Haiti in 1954 to provide relief assistance after Hurricane Hazel. Today CARE's work in Haiti includes projects in HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, maternal and child health, education, food security, and water and sanitation.
CARE recognizes the following partners for their generous donations and in-kind support of our emergency relief efforts: Cargill, Delta Air Lines, Hanesbrands Inc., JPMorgan Chase and UPS.