Emergency aid starting to get through in Haiti

By staff writers
15 Jan 2010

After a really difficult 48 hours, emergency aid is beginning to get through to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, with more to come tomorrow and in the next few days, the UK Disasters Emergency Committee said today.

Aid distribution has begun but logistics continue to be extremely difficult, according to United Nations officials.

A BBC on-the-ground reporter said that while relief provisions and workers were now arriving in numbers, assistance was still thin on the ground in affected areas.

US officials report that up to 10,000 troops will be on the ground or off the coast of Haiti by 18 January 2010 to help deal with the earthquake aid effort.

Tools to help with search and rescue, blankets, hygiene kits and tarpaulins to shelter people are among the emergency items already delivered by DEC member agencies.

Water, sanitation, health and shelter equipment will also be flown in from the UK on Saturday 16 January.

A 300-bed field hospital is due for delivery this evening, along with 3,000 body bags and chlorine for water treatment.

DEC member agency teams were responding to the crisis within hours of the earthquake, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and devastated swathes of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Assessments on the ground to identify urgent needs and co-ordinate responses are taking place and preparations for more aid to be delivered to the poorest country in the western hemisphere are ongoing.

DEC Chief Executive, Brendan Gormley, said: “Aid workers on the ground have worked in tremendously difficult conditions with sporadic communications and goods bottle-necking in the capital’s battered airport. However, aid is arriving at the airport and from across the border with the Dominican Republic - and we can expect more and more to arrive over the next few days."

He added: “The humanitarian response required is enormous with the true scale of the horror still unknown. The UK public can help us meet this desperate need by donating to our appeal so that we can ensure life-saving aid continues to reach where it is needed.”

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters that 30 per cent of buildings throughout Port-au-Prince had been damaged, with the figure at 50 per cent in some areas.

Haiti's president is sleeping in the airport, his residence having been destroyed.

Tearfund’s Chief Executive, Matthew Frost, said communications had been severely disrupted, making logistics “extremely difficult” for emergency and relief agencies.

The UN said a total of about $310m (£190m) in international aid had been pledged so far for the relief effort. It will launch an emergency appeal for $550m this evening.

Donations to the DEC Haiti Earthquake can be made online at www.dec.org.uk

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