The extent of the devastation is still not clear but news reports indicate thousands of people may have died.
Haiti's worst quake in two centuries hit south of the capital Port-au-Prince, and so far has suffered two large aftershocks.
HelpAge International has a programme office based in Port-au-Prince, which has been working in Haiti over the last eight years. We are deploying our emergency team there within the next 24 hours, who will be supported by our international sister organizations HelpAge USA, HelpAge Germany, and in the UK Age Concern and Help the Aged.
HelpAge has been working with local partners in Haiti over several years on helping communities prepare for natural disasters and in reducing the risks of a disaster. Most of this work, however, has focused on the more obvious risk to Haiti - that of hurricanes. Haiti has little recent experience or preparedness for such a devastating earthquake.
"We are hoping that HelpAge International and its local partners can at least call on some of these preparation plans and response systems put in place to deal with hurricanes" says Sarah Packwood, Emergency Programme Coordinator, who is being deployed as part of our emergency Response Team on Thursday 14 January.
In 2009 HelpAge prepared radio broadcast messages on disaster preparedness and reminding community members remember older people in their communities who may need assistance in the event of a disaster
"Many of the vulnerable communities we have worked with and trained over recent years felt much more able to protect themselves in the event of natural disasters" says Sarah Packwood. "This earthquake however will test local capacity to its limits and a large scale international response will be very necessary"
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