I received this update from the American Red Cross, Northeast Wisconsin division, last evening. I’m pasting the whole release here:
UPDATE ON Red Cross RESPONSE IN HAITI
An outpouring of help and support
Oshkosh, WI… Friday, January 15, 2010 – Following Tuesday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck near Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, an estimated 3 million people have been affected. Red Cross responders are working around the clock to meet the logistical challenges and ensure aid reaches the survivors. The following information is today’s update on the earthquake disaster relief work in Haiti by the American Red Cross and partners through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In some parts of the earthquake-stricken area, 70 percent of the houses have been damaged. Thousands of survivors spent a third night out in the open without shelter. People are camping out at around 40 gathering points throughout the city, too scared to spend the night inside damaged buildings that could collapse at any moment. Priority needs are food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and emotional support.
The Red Cross now has dozens of disaster specialists in Haiti, assessing the damage, addressing urgent needs and establishing the foundation for a long-term recovery operation. Two planes carrying Red Cross humanitarian assistance are due to land this afternoon in Port-au-Prince, if they are not re-routed. The first one carries a field hospital and the second carries tarps, blankets, hygiene items, buckets, shelter supplies and kitchen sets.
A second plane, carrying 40 tons of supplies – mainly medical items – is en-route to Haiti. Included on this flight, sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross, are specialized kits to help treat the wounded, basic medicines and chlorine for water treatment.
The public response to the emergency in Haiti has been impressive and moving. In the first 48 hours after earthquake hit, the amount pledged to the American Red Cross was an incredible outpouring of support. More than half of the financial donations have come through online contributions, with a record amount pledged through mobile giving and strong support from corporations. Donations to the American Red Cross have exceeded the totals amount received in the first 48 hours following both Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The American Red Cross has already released $10 million for relief efforts in Haiti as an initial commitment with plans to add more. Future allocations will be made once more is known about the situation on the ground in Haiti and the type and location of greatest needs both in the short term and long term.
Due to the challenging conditions in Haiti from damaged or destroyed transportation and power systems, it is taking longer than Red Cross or other relief agencies had hoped. The airport tower is unreliable therefore many flights are being diverted and the cranes needed to unload boats have been damaged, rendering them inoperable. While the airport is operational for humanitarian flights, there is a huge backlog and the Red Cross is among the organizations waiting for clearance for local authorities. The port is not expected to open until January 18.
Many areas are accessible, but some roads are covered with debris, making travel within the capital city difficult. There is a near-total blackout in Port-au-Prince. Due to limited electricity, communications remain difficult with unreliable land and cellular lines, which are critically important to coordinate and direct a massive response such as this.
A few specially trained disaster responders from the American Red Cross have arrived in Port-au-Prince and are coordinating with local and international partners to overcome the logistical challenges and bring aid into the country. These individuals join the Red Cross staff already on the ground and 12 Red Cross teams that arrived from other countries yesterday. Among them are engineers, surgeons and family linking specialists. These teams will establish field hospitals, restore water and sanitation systems, distribute supplies and restore family links facilities. Yesterday, International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Port-au-Prince provided medical assistance to five major hospitals and clinics, as well as to smaller facilities set up by local doctors in areas with a high concentration of earthquake survivors.
The Red Cross provided blood and blood products to the US Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. That blood, requested by the US Navy, was shipped by the US Navy to their facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of medical evacuees from Haiti. In addition, the American Red Cross sent a shipment of blood products to the United Nations Mission in Haiti. At this point, no specific request has been made by the Haitian government for the American Red Cross to provide blood or blood products to support treatment of the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The American Red Cross is meeting the blood needs of this tragedy through current supplies, and does not anticipate the need for a special blood donor appeal to support these efforts. As always, blood donors are encouraged to call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit us online at redcrossblood.org to give blood.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is also helping to reconnect separated families within the country. They have established a special Web site, enabling persons in Haiti and abroad to search for and register the names of relatives missing since the earthquake: http://www.icrc.org/familylinks. Within 48 hours of its launch, more than 13,800 visited the site looking for loved ones. About 1,100 people have registered on the site from Haiti to inform their loved ones that they are safe and well.
Given the massive needs and the extent of the damage seen so far, this disaster response will take considerable resources to help the people of Haiti recover. It may be many weeks or even months to understand the full extent of the damage, and we expect the recovery will take years. This is not unprecedented for the Red Cross. Five years after Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross is still helping many communities restore what was lost.
At this time, what are needed most are financial contributions. People who want to help those affected by the Haitian earthquake can make a donation to the American Red Cross International Response Fund at redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. Donors can designate their gifts to Haiti relief.
Families who have lost everything in an international disaster need immediate help just to make it through the first terrifying hours and days. A cooking set, toilet paper and a toothbrush, safe water and a blanket to keep warm – these simple items are essential as families struggle to survive. For $100, you can give one family a basic kit that will provide a month’s supplies.
The Red Cross is also receiving money through a third-party mobile fundraising effort in which mobile donors can text “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross. The funds will go to support the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.
First Lady Michelle Obama also released a Public Service Announcement asking people to join her in supporting the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti: “The images from Haiti are heart-breaking—homes, hospitals and schools destroyed; families searching for loved ones; parents trying to feed their children. But we can all do something. We can help the American Red Cross as it delivers the food, water and medicine that can save lives. Donate $10 by texting “HAITI” to 9-0-9-9-9. Visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Thanks for your help.”
While the Red Cross appreciates the heartfelt offers of goods and volunteer time, they are not recruiting volunteers or accepting household items for Haiti relief. They are only deploying Red Cross volunteers specially trained to manage international emergency operations. Things like clothes are not helpful right now because there is nowhere to store them, no one to sort them, and it would be difficult to transport the items to Haiti. One good way to turn clothes into cash is to have a garage sale and then donate the money to the relief efforts. If you would like to offer supplies or to travel to Haiti, please visit www.Interaction.org for a list of organizations accepting this type of support.
The American Red Cross has had a 15-person office in Haiti focused year-round on HIV/AIDS education, malaria prevention, measles vaccinations and disaster preparedness. They have had limited contact with the staff in Haiti, but do know that they are safe and responding to the survivors’ needs The local Haitian Red Cross has been meeting humanitarian needs in Haiti since 1932 and specializes in providing first aid, disaster preparedness education and ambulance services.
The Red Cross is the largest nonprofit organization with permanent presence in Haiti and plays an important coordination role among other humanitarian groups within the country. More than 97 million Red Cross volunteers worldwide – and hundreds of local responders from Haiti – give the Red Cross unusual expertise, scale and scope to manage catastrophic disasters from the moment they strike.