CHF International, which has been undertaking one of the largest US-funded infrastructure and employment creation programs in Haiti since 2006, will focus on recovery efforts within the densely populated city of Port au Prince and surrounding damaged areas. CHF has around 170 staff in Haiti already, including many experts in infrastructure and construction. The humanitarian aid organization will deploy an additional US-based emergency response team beginning tonight to assess the situation and the most pressing needs of the people of Haiti.
CHF's focus on the ground will be to distribute immediate necessities to survivors in the aftermath of the natural disaster, specifically food, aid, water and shelter.
"On a normal day, the streets are full of people, but the numbers are significantly more right now," noted Kristie van de Wetering, who is managing communications efforts for CHF International within Haiti. "People - families with babies and children, old people and young people are walking, many carrying whatever they can manage - bags, small suitcases."
"It is clear that many people did not sleep in their homes - many were still on sheets of cardboard or bedsheets on the sidewalks or on the street when I saw them this morning. Public places such as parks and soccer fields are serving as temporary shelters and many people are trying to get gas from the local gas stations. Several dead bodies can be seen on the sidewalks. Injured people are being tended to by other citizens, and there are many wounded walking. One specific community on the hillside, called St. Mary's, has extensive damage - there are many houses completely flattened and more in the ravine," added van de Wetering.
In the coming weeks and months, CHF will focus on the needs of the people as they transition from basic survival to recovery. This includes some of CHF's areas of greatest expertise such as:
Building 'transitional shelters' - temporary homes that meet international standards where a family can live during the recovery period
Helping to generate livelihoods by employing people in the cleanup of their communities
Aiding reconstruction efforts by creating earthquake-resistant buildings
Since 2006, CHF's team has been undertaking one of the largest USAID-funded infrastructure rehabilitation and job creation programs in Haiti, and has been focused many of its efforts on repairing vital infrastructure damaged in the 2008 tropical storm season. CHF International responded to similar work in Indonesia, after the Padang earthquake in October, and in Gaza, after the conflict one year ago. Because of these experiences, the CHF International team is uniquely qualified to assist in this second natural disaster.
Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake magnitude 7.0 just before 5pm on Tuesday, January 12. The earthquake struck 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the densely populated capital city. The level of destruction and loss of life is not yet fully understood, but early reports suggest loss of life, livelihoods and homes on a devastating scale.
NOTE TO THE MEDIA: Interview opportunities are available with CHF Spokespeople on the ground in Haiti, and from CHF's Headquarters in Silver Spring, MD. Media should contact Carrie Fox at 202-255-9214 to arrange interviews.
Carrie Fox, 301-585-5034 x111
David Humphries, 301-563-1891