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Conditions Remain Critical in Haiti
Friday, January 15, 2010
© Damon Winter/New York Times
What is happening
Large-scale emergency relief operations are facing severe bottlenecks in getting aid to Haiti and from the airport into Port-au-Prince four days after the major earthquake that devastated the country's capital and surrounding areas on January 12.
There is not enough heavy equipment to clear the roads for aid convoys to pass. Because of this, international relief supplies — including essential water, food, and medical care — are taking a long time to reach survivors. The U.N. estimates that 3.5 million people are affected but they have only been able to reach around 4,000. The real first responders in Haiti right now are the survivors themselves.
Our response to this horrific crisis in Haiti draws on UUSC's experience with disaster response in the aftermaths of September 11, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Pakistan earthquake, and the Myanmar cyclone.
Our experience has taught us time and again that in every disaster, groups of people are at particular risk of being overlooked or left behind in traditional aid programs. The best way of identifying and reaching these groups is through partnering with grassroots organizations working in the country itself. Because UUSC is a justice organization, this is our particular focus in any crisis. Efforts of agile, focused aid agencies like UUSC complement the efforts of large emergency response organizations that bring in massive aid programs.
What UUSC is doing
- Right now, the first responders in Haiti are the survivors themselves. These people badly need support. They are digging people and bodies out of the rubble, setting up makeshift shelters, and seeking water and food. UUSC is working on providing support to these impromptu community groups as they continue to organize search-and-rescue teams and respond to the urgent needs of survivors in Haiti. The best way for us to get emergency assistance to these groups is through organizations on the ground that have long-standing relationships with grassroots groups.
- UUSC's Programs Director is training medical teams already on the ground in Haiti over the phone. She is helping these teams convert clinical work into emergency medical response units, i.e., mobile clinics that will help reduce the second wave of casualties from wounds and contamination.
- We are working with national peasant organizations to see how they can provide aid to groups in the city. These organizations have a national infrastructure outside of Port-au-Prince. Supporting these groups to provide aid in the country ensures that much-needed aid funds remain in Haiti rather flow outside to external suppliers. Importing massive amounts of aid food often pushes food prices to the bottom and bankrupts small farmers after natural disasters.
- Logistics and the lack of infrastructure are presently a huge challenge in Haiti. The limited aid and supplies available in Haiti at this time need to be used for survivors and essential first responders. UUSC will send an assessment mission as soon as possible without burdening current on-the-ground aid efforts. Our mission will include a colleague who can speak Creole and has many years of experience working in the country.
- UUSC's assessment will guide our response over the mid- and long-term. We will help grassroots groups get back on their feet to work with the marginalized. Along with them, we will focus on reaching out to survivors who are on the margins of the relief and recovery efforts. Our initial research shows that those groups include child domestic workers (restaviks) and women who work in the informal economy
Where your donation is going
Your donation supports UUSC's response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Your donation is restricted to the UUSC-UUA Joint Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. UUSC sends $0.92 of every dollar you donate to support relief and recovery efforts on the ground. The remaining $.08 covers essential administrative expenses such as wire transfer fees to send funds to Haiti, calls between our office and our partners on the ground, and temporary hires to support our rapid response.
Contributions towards Haiti relief are deductible for 2009 taxes.
Please help as generously as you can. We will be updating our website regularly as our plans develop.