HAITI EARTHQUAKE: DANGER GROWING
-Concern Worldwide Country Director Elke Leidel
Concern has launched an urgent emergency appeal to respond to the damage caused by Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale.
The capital Port-au-Prince is the worst affected area. Concern has on-going programs here - Health, Nutrition, HIV and Livelihoods and Peace-building. Our other programs (on the Island of La Gonave and the Central Plateau - Saut d'Eau) don't seem as badly affected. The hospital that houses our CTC Stabilization Centre in Port-au-Prince is still standing. Increasing levels of malnutrition among children are likely to be an issue in the coming days.
Concern's emergency response team in Haiti is being supplemented on the ground by Concern US Operations Director Dominic MacSorley and our Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU). They are involved in supporting community members in search and rescue and will be responding to the situation in the capital Port-au-Prince. Supplies of food, water and fuel will be urgently required to carry out any effective response. Stores in Port au Prince are quickly running out of food supplies and water is extremely scarce. A complete assessment of Concern's health centers will be carried out during the following days.
The death toll, currently at nearly 100,000 is expected to keep climbing after the quake. Haiti was hit just before 5pm EST on January 12, wreaking havoc in the congested capital of Port au Prince, just 10 miles from the quake's epicenter in Carrefour-a mountainous suburb of shantytowns that extend a mile up from the valley floor-located just minutes from where Concern works.
Most of the structures in Port-au-Prince's vast and overcrowded slum communities are built with raw concrete walls and metal roofs, and the majority have been utterly razed, causing widespread devastation. Hundreds of thousands of traumatized residents in the surrounding areas of Port-au-Prince have now been forced onto the streets with nowhere to go, in a disaster that has affected an estimated three million people, according to the Red Cross.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere: in 2008, four back-to-back hurricanes affected 800,000 people and resulted in catastrophic damage to homes, crops, schools, roads, and communications infrastructure.
Wednesday's aftershocks measured 5.9 and continued to rattle the city hours after the quake; the capital Port-au-Prince was said to be in total darkness, with thousands of people left without any form of shelter and thousands more buried under rubble.
Telephone and power lines were down, making it difficult to communicate and assess the full extent of the damage, although attempts are being made to dig people out from the rubble of fallen buildings, among them, the five-story United Nations building in which at least 36 UN staff have been confirmed dead with 150 more missing, a three-storey hospital in Petion Ville, the presidential palace, and several more government buildings and international embassies. Haiti's envoy to the US said the cost of the damage could run into billions.