Haiti earthquake: Humanitarian organizations mobilize

Humanitarian agencies, Christian and secular alike, are mobilizing to aid the victims of the estimated 7.0-magnitude earthquake which struck the deeply impoverished island nation of Haiti on Monday afternoon.

Thousands are feared dead. According to reports from The Washington Post and Associated Press, much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince has been severely damaged by the temblor and subsequent aftershocks, whose epicenters were only 10 miles away underneath the Caribbean Sea. Residents were reported to be stacking dead bodies and throughout the night injured Haitians pleaded in the streets for medical help.

“People are out in the streets, crying, screaming, shouting,” Karel Zelenka, director of the Catholic Relief Services office in Haiti, told AP on Tuesday night. “They see the extent of the damage,” he said, but could do little to rescue people trapped under rubble because night had fallen.

“There are a lot of collapsed buildings,” Zelenka said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince. “This will be a major, major disaster.”

World Vision has worked in Haiti for 30 years and has about 370 staff members in the country. The organization reports its staff had difficulty leaving its Port-au-Prince offices to assess damage and assist others because of the mass of debris in the road. Many of the buildings in the capital are poorly constructed brick and concrete structures.

“It felt as if a truck had hit a wall,” said World Vision staffer Magalie Boyer, of the initial tremor. “There is extensive damage in the city. … World Vision Haiti will distribute first aid kits to survivors, along with basic materials such as soap, blankets, clothes and bottles of water as an initial response.”

World Vision staffs from less affected regions of Haiti are mobilizing and the agency’s global experts are expected to arrive in the disaster zone as soon as possible.

Crystal Penner, a World Vision aid worker, was in the central plateau region of Haiti when the quake hit.

She said, “There are relief goods prepositioned in various locations across the country, though the challenge will be getting those supplies swiftly to those in need.”

“We would be very concerned about a quake of this magnitude anywhere in the world, but it is especially devastating in Haiti, where people are acutely vulnerable because of poor infrastructure and extreme poverty,” said Edward Brown, World Vision’s relief director in the United States.

Washington, D.C.-based Faith and Action, a Christian mission to government officials, is launching an emergency aid campaign as well.

Faith and Action president Rev. Rob Schenck stated, “Faith and Action has created an emergency relief fund that will work through several Christian humanitarian relief agencies presently working in Haiti and will also consult with the embassy in Washington to determine the greatest areas of need.”

World Relief also has a standing presence in Haiti. Jan Kary, public relations chief for the organization, said World Relief has 40 staff members already in Haiti working on HIV/AIDS relief. A disaster relief unit is on the way to Haiti to provide basic necessities such as water and temporary shelter.

World Relief is a member of an umbrella group of international relief and development organizations called “The Integral Alliance.”  There are 16 Christian relief and development groups from Europe and the U.S. and we are all working together to coordinate some efforts.

Dr. Hubert Moriquette, World Relief’s country director for Haiti called the situation, “grave and devastating.”

To donate to any of the organizations mentioned in this blog in their relief efforts , click on their hyperlinks.

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