Haiti

HAITI EARTHQUAKE: HUGE LOSS OF LIFE EXPECTED

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"Food, water, shelter and medicine are the immediate priorites for those who have survived this catastrophe. It has been difficult in the darkness of last night and before dawn today to establish the full extent of this appalling tragedy. Phone lines are down, but to the best of our knowledge, most of our staff have been reported safe."

-Concern Worldwide Regional Director Brid Kennedy

Concern has launched an urgent emergency appeal to respond to the tremendous damage caused by yesterday's earthquake in Haiti that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale.

Thousands are feared dead after the quake, which hit Haiti just before 5pm EST on January 12, destroying buildings and wreaking havoc in the congested capital of Port au Prince, 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.

Concern's emergency response team in Haiti are being supplemented over the coming hours by Concern US Operations Director Dominic MacSorley as well as additional staff. They will be involved in search and rescue and will be assessing the situation on the ground in the capital Port-au-Prince, the town of Saut d'Eau, and on the island of La Gonave, over the next few days. Concern Worldwide Regional Director Brid Kennedy said in a statement last night that "Food, water, shelter and medicine are the immediate priorities for those who have survived this catastrophe. It has been difficult in the darkness of last night and before dawn today to establish the full extent of this appalling tragedy. Phone lines are down, but to the best of our knowledge, most of our staff have been reported safe."

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.

Yesterday'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 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 five UN staff have been confirmed dead with several 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.

Concern's Response: Immediate Priorities

Concern's emergency team on the ground in Haiti is assessing damage and working to meet the most urgent survival needs of those affected. Our immediate response includes the following activities:

Search and rescue efforts to reach those trapped, stranded by the quake

Assessment of most urgent survival needs for affected populations in Port-au-Prince, Saut d'Eau, and the island of La Gonave

Distributing water, food, shelter, and medicine to families in greatest need

Continuing to assess and monitor the impact of the crisis and respond as needed in the coming days and weeks

Concern in Haiti

Concern has been active in emergency relief, development and disaster prevention work in Haiti since 1994 following Hurricane Gordon where it implemented an emergency response. Since then the programme has evolved to include long term development programming as well as emergency interventions. Concern presently intervenes in 3 geographical areas: La Gonâve, Central Plateau (based in Saut d'Eau) and poor neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince.

Past Emergency Response

Concern Worldwide Haiti has worked with the national civil protection authorities to establish and train local civil protection committees. In the past, our emergency work has involved the distribution of NFIs and water and we are establishing integrated CTC programmes for severely malnourished children in urban areas.

2009 Emergency Response

distribution of seeds and tools, cash for work activities related to agriculture and watershed protection targeting 3,000 poor farming families in the commune of Saut d'Eau (Aug '08-April '09)

3,601 poor La Gonâve households hit by food insecurity and hurricanes helped with distribution of seeds, tools, goats, fishing supplies and vouchers to boost trade in basic food commodities; cash for work activities relating to agriculture and watershed protection;

1,200 poor La Gonâve and Saut d'Eau residents hit by food insecurity and hurricanes helped with distribution of 200 construction kits and training (Dec'08-May '09)

Reconstruction of 3 classrooms in 3 hurricane-damaged schools in Saut d'Eau and improvements to 6 schools on La Gonave