"Amid the crying and wailing, people are spending the night outside," the ICRC's head of delegation in Haiti, Ricardo Conti, said early today. "People are trying to comfort each other. What you are hearing in the streets are the prayers of thanks of those who survived."
"Our ability to help depends largely on the situation in Port-au-Prince," Mr Conti continued. "It is extremely difficult to move around the city to assess needs. What is certain is that the quake has had a massive impact on a population already reeling from other recent disasters."
The ICRC is contributing to relief efforts by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement both in Port-au-Prince and from its regional base in Panama. Stocks of non-food relief items are being made available for up to 10,000 families, and additional staff will be deployed as soon as possible. All ICRC activities are carried out in close cooperation with its Red Cross partners, especially the Haitian National Red Cross Society.
The ICRC plans to focus on providing medical aid for survivors of the earthquake and support for efforts to recover and identify the dead. It will also support Red Cross efforts to restore contacts between family members separated because of the earthquake and its aftermath. Finally, it plans to assess the needs of the prisons where it has been regularly visiting detainees.
The ICRC's nine international staff in the capital, Port-au-Prince, are safe and sound but the whereabouts of all its 59 local employees have not yet been clarified.
The ICRC has been working in Haiti since 1994. It focuses on improving access to water and sanitation in violence-prone shantytowns in Port-au-Prince, visiting detainees and supporting the capacity of the Haitian Red Cross.
For further information, please contact:
Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 82 or +41 79 217 32 80
Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 24