Red Cross Red Crescent operation intensifies in Haiti

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The Red Cross Red Crescent response to last week's devastating Haitian earthquake continues to grow, with more and more supplies, infrastructure and aid workers arriving each day.

More than 400 Red Cross and Red Crescent staff have arrived in Port-au-Prince since the earthquake, with an estimated 180 of these from Caribbean and Central and South American National Red Cross Societies. But at the forefront of the operation remains the Haitian Red Cross volunteers, who have been working around the clock since the quake struck, despite the personal losses that many of them have suffered.

"This is a disaster that will stay with us for years, and so will the memory of those we have lost," said Dr Michaele Gedeon, President of the Haitian National Red Cross Society. "I cannot thank you enough for coming to help our country."

So far, at least 77 tonnes of Red Cross Red Crescent aid has either landed at the Port-au-Prince airport, or has been sent overland from Santo Domingo in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. This includes seven of 16 Emergency Response Units (ERUs) that have been deployed (for more info on ERUs, please click here).

"Our priority now is to bring medical aid to cover the needs of thousands of people who were injured in the quake, and to prevent the spread of illness and diseases in the coming days," said Yasemin Aysan, the Under Secretary General for disaster response and recovery for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Operational highlights:

- Yesterday (17 January) a Spanish Red Cross water and sanitation unit produced 120,000 litres of water that was then distributed by Red Cross volunteers to 24,000 people in six settlements across Port-au-Prince.

- It is estimated that in the coming days, the Red Cross Red Crescent will increase its capacity to produce and distribute water for between 200,000 and 400,000 people a day.

- A Norwegian and Canadian Red Cross rapid deployment hospital is now operational in the grounds of Port-au-Prince's University Hospital. This 70-bed facility can provide assistance to about 200 wounded each day. A larger, 250-bed hospital will be operational later this week.

- Two mobile basic health care units are also in the field. These units, deployed by the German and Finnish Red Cross Societies, are designed to provide preventative and curative health care to about 30,000 people each. A third unit will arrive in the coming days.

- Relief distributions are planned to start today for 60,000 families. Each family will receive kits which include hygiene kits, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets and other items.

- So far, more than 500 tonnes of aid has been mobilized and is expected land in the coming days.

The IFRC has launched a preliminary emergency appeal seeking a total of 105.7 million Swiss francs (103 million US dollars/73 million euro) to assist 300,000 people for three years.

The ICRC, which was already present and active in Haiti before Tuesday's earthquake, works as part of the wider International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and cooperates closely with the Haitian Red Cross.

The ICRC is providing clean water to around 7,500 people in three makeshift camps. Latrines for around 1,000 people have also been built in the Delmas area. It has also provided materials to the Haitian Red Cross for the 10 first aid posts which have been set up around Port-au-Prince around the city. Six trucks carrying nearly 40 tonnes of ICRC medical supplies arrived on Sunday (17 January) with the supplies being distributed to local hospitals and clinics. A second ICRC rapid deployment team is expected to arrive in Haiti in the coming day or two to provide more forensics, tracing, nursing, communications and logistics support to staff already on the ground.

As of 18 January, more than 22,000 people had registered with the ICRC's special website, www.icrc.org/familylinks, which was activated on 14 January to help people searching for their loved ones.

For more information please visit www.ifrc.org/haiti.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Geneva: Matthew Cochrane, IFRC acting public communications manager: + 41 79 308 98 30

Jean-Luc Martinage, communications Officer (French language) + 41 79 217 33 86

In Panama: Pilar Forcen, communications manager for the IFRC Americas zone, + 507 6672 3170

Manuel Rodriguez, PADRU information officer, + 507 66 79 43 34

The Geneva-based International Federation promotes the humanitarian activities of 186 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies among vulnerable people. By coordinating international disaster relief and encouraging development support, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The Federation, National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together, constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.