Author: Michael Hill
Men walk by a building that collapsed during the earthquake that rocked Port-au-Prince. The quake left tens of thousands of dead and affected more than 3 million people. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS
Donate NowCatholic Relief Services staff continues to rush aid to thousands of people affected by the earthquake in Haiti even as the need in capital city of Port-au-Prince grows greater every day.
CRS is trucking supplies overland from the Dominican Republic and shipping USAID Food for Peace food and other aid into Haitian ports north of Port-au-Prince, where the port received extensive damage in the January 12 earthquake. Additional staff have been added in Miami to coordinate flying aid into the stricken country.
Staff have identified 11 distribution points in Port-au-Prince, mainly informal camps set up by those who have left their damaged homes, and have handed out food, hygiene kits and medical supplies. Working with our partner, the Catholic Medical Mission Board, CRS has delivered medical supplies to hospitals in the city that have been overrun with the many injured. CRS emergency personnel have gone to the hospital of St. Francois de Sales, which is a partner with AIDSRelief, the consortium that includes CRS and that is fighting HIV and AIDS in Haiti. They report that the hospital was heavily damaged in the earthquake and are working to get it up and running.
"We recognize that the need is vast and the situation is challenging, to say the least," says CRS President Ken Hackett, commenting on the state of Port-au-Prince, where some 3 million people are estimated to have been affected. "There is no way that everyone can be taken care of immediately. This was just too great a disaster. We are working as hard and as fast as we can and in doing that we have helped thousands of people and we will get aid to thousands more in the coming days."
Staff have also visited areas west of the capital where they have found extensive damage that has gone almost unnoticed as the focus has been on Port-au-Prince. They are working to get aid to that region.
As donations to CRS have reached nearly $12 million-including $1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $225,000 from the New York Yankees-CRS increased its original $5 million funding commitment and is planning an emergency response with an expectation of raising $25 million from its generous supporters for its relief effort.
"Our teams on the ground say the needs are beyond belief," says Hackett. "This money will help us go even further to reach people who are suffering."
CRS staff, who were handing out food, water and shelter supplies within 24 hours of the earthquake, report that the CRS building in Port-au-Prince, which was damaged in the quake, is structurally sound. Much of their work is now being moved back indoors, though many remain sleeping outside in tents and cars. CRS has a permanent staff of 313 in Haiti and all are reported to have survived. Additional personnel are arriving daily.
"There's been an outpouring of support from Catholics and others of good will in the United States," says CRS Executive Vice President Michael Wiest. "We're so grateful for the generosity of our donors, especially because the massive destruction caused by the quake will require a long-term recovery process."
CRS has been working in Haiti for 55 years, often responding to disasters such as the hurricanes that hit the country in 2008. The agency has an extensive network of aid partners in the country, including Catholic schools, hospitals and health centers.
"We will work with our Church partners to reach the most vulnerable survivors, including orphans and the elderly," says Hackett. "We are acting swiftly to help people who have suffered so greatly."
Michael Hill is CRS' communications officer for sub-Saharan Africa. He is based at the agency's headquarters in Baltimore.