Red Cross Red Crescent intensifies relief and plans for early recovery in Haiti

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The leaders of the world's largest humanitarian organization are on their way to earthquake-devastated Haiti as part of a massive disaster response and recovery operation.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) President Tadateru Konoé and Secretary General Bekele Geleta will arrive in Port-au-Prince today (18 January) to lead what is shaping up as one of the IFRC's largest and most complex operations in recent memory.

"We must confront a natural disaster that is not only one of the biggest of the past decade, but is affecting one of the very poorest countries in the world," says Konoé.

"Poverty is at the root of this catastrophe, and countless lives could have been saved by investment in quake-resistant buildings and other disaster risk reduction measures" emphasizes Geleta.

"What we are seeing in Haiti is what happens when an extreme natural event occurs in the lives of people who are already frighteningly vulnerable, and the terrible human cost of this tragedy is only now becoming clear.

"The international community and humanitarian organizations such as the IFRC must work together to tackle the survivors' urgent needs and ensure that they can recover and move towards a safer future," he adds.

President Konoé praised the Haitian National Red Cross Society for its brave and determined response in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's magnitude 7 earthquake, which is estimated to have affected as many as three million people.

"Haitian Red Cross volunteers were among the first to respond because they live within the affected communities," he says.

"They too have suffered appalling losses. They are shocked and grieving. And yet their desire to help their fellow human beings takes priority. They are true humanitarian heroes and we are both proud of, and humbled by, their dedication."

Konoé said that the Red Cross Red Crescent would use the experience it has gained from five years of post-tsunami recovery work to ensure that Haiti's devastated communities not only receive the help they need now, but will continue to do so in the months and years to follow.

"The people affected by this disaster will be full partners in all Red Cross Red Crescent work to restore their homes, livelihoods and - most importantly - their dignity," says the IFRC president.

"Disaster response is a sprint but disaster recovery is a marathon," adds Geleta. "I will personally ensure that sustainable long-term recovery plans are at the heart of everything the IFRC and its partners do in Haiti."

More than 280 Red Cross Red Crescent aid workers - including 180 from Caribbean and Central and South American National Red Cross Societies - have arrived in Port-au-Prince, with dozens more en route. Sixteen emergency response units (ERUs) have also been deployed to Haiti. These cost-effective self-contained units are staffed by Red Cross Red Crescent experts in relief coordination, water and sanitation, shelter, telecommunications and health. Of these, five have already arrived, including a base camp for the Red Cross Red Crescent operation, a 50-bed field hospital, a basic health care unit and a water and sanitation unit.

MRCS Appeals:

The Malaysian Red Crescent is now appealing to generous Malaysians to donate to the MRCS International Relief Fund in response to the latest Emergency Appeal from IFRC seeks for 105.7 million Swiss francs (103 million US dollars/73 million euro) to assist 300,000 people for three years.

Donors can sent cheques or cash to the following address:

National Honorary Secretary

Malaysian Red Crescent Society

National Headquarters

32, Jalan Nipah off Jalan Ampang

55000 Kuala Lumpur

Cheques should be made out to the "MRCS International Relief Fund" written at the back HAITI EARTHQUAKE or bank in into MRCS Account Maybank No - 5144 2210 2657.

Donations to the MRCS are entitled to Tax-Exemption.

For further details please contact:

Suhana Mohamed Salleh

Manager, Communications

Malaysian Red Crescent

32, Jalan Nipah off Jalan Ampang

55000 Kuala Lumpur

Tel : 603 - 4257 8122 ext 106

Mobile: 012 - 321 2937

Fax : 603 - 4257 9867 / 4253 3191

e-mail: suhana@redcrescent.org.my