USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense have supplied in excess of $400 million in humanitarian aid to people recovering in Haiti as of Jan. 31. And on Feb. 3, the United Nations announced its $575 million flash appeal was 87% funded. (The flash appeal is under revision to reflect a 12-month outlook.) These and other donations have been working to keep Haitians alive.
Virginia Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team
Members, with assistance from U.S. military personnel, coordinate plans before their mission to find survivors affected by the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Volunteer relief workers are conducting humanitarian and disaster relief operations as part of Operation Unified Response after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. U.S. Navy Photo/ Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron ShelleyView all
Food & water
On the food front, as of Jan. 28, American dollars helped feed 655,000 people. The UN World Food Program surged distribution on Saturday to reach more than 1 million people since the earthquake with two weeks of food. UNWFP hopes to dispense rice to two million people by mid-February. Rice bags from various sources appear to range from 20 – 100 pounds each. Fifty-five pounds of rice can feed a family of six for up to three weeks.
While most people at food stations are orderly, a few individuals, mainly men created problems. New sites opened with new security approaches that appeared to have smoothed out the rough edges in 13 of 16 sites. The biggest change is issuing dated ration tickets to the woman of the family for redemption. The man of the family is encouraged to join her to help carry provisions.
Plans are underway to also re-provision orphanages and hospitals in Port-au-Prince as well as address provisioning single men.
Food distribution by other relief organizations, such as Christian Relief Services, the Red Cross, and expanded school lunch programs, has positively impacted more than 100,000 Haitians.
Folks living in affected farmlands generally have not been counted in relief data or received rations. Aerial assessments sighted 20% – 60% of farmhouses destroyed in Grand Goâve and Léogâne regions. Many farmers remain on their lands for the harvest. Haitian officials further state $32 million are needed for seed, tools, and fertilizer to ready farmers for the March planting season.
The water situation is starting to shape up nicely in Port-au-Prince. UNICEF and WASH brought water to an estimated 532,000 via 252 sites in Port-au-Prince as of Feb. 2. Water kiosks went online and substantially expanded coverage.
UNICEF encourages relief organizations to incorporate breastfeeding, breast-milk substitutes, and other compliant infant food in their delivery systems to ward off malnutrition and disease. In response, children under age five are receiving therapeutic and supplementary feeding in addition to general rations.
In general food and water relief efforts are moving toward the estimated two million or so city dwellers affected by the earthquake. However, individuals remain at risk for starvation and dehydration in outlying areas, in gang dominated sections of Port-au-Prince, as well as children and the severely injured or sick without caregivers.
UNICEF launched a concerted effort to identify unaccompanied children in Port-au-Prince. They seek to return children to living relatives or failing that find safe places for them in camps and orphanages.
UN human rights experts worry unaccompanied children are at risk for exploitation and abuse. Experts praise the UN’s Child Protection Sub-Cluster registering children under age five, older girls, children and youth with mental disabilities or serious injuries, and children alone who came to the city to live with extended family or attend school. Haitian children under age 14 represent 40% of the population so their needs are great.
Departing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has promised to advocate for the safety of women against gender-based violence and exploitation as well.
Shelters are needed. More than 500 informal settlements exist in just Port-au-Prince. Women, children, and upwards of a million people who have made do outdoors need family-sized tents. UN Humanitarian Coordinator Kim Bolduc called for 200,000 tents before the rainy season arrives in three months. Latrines and basic sanitation facilities are equally necessary for healthy living. All are among the UN’s top priorities now that rescue efforts have ended and food and water rations have expanded.
An official camp with 350 tents for 3,500 people is being readied in the Tabarre section of Port-au-Prince. As of Jan. 28, relief organizations distributed materials to shelter 36,000 of the estimated two million people still in Port-au-Prince. A total of 6,000 tarpaulins; 1,948 tents; 800 shelter kits; 3,345 pieces of plastic sheeting; and 400 shelter boxes each containing a 10-person tent, blankets, water purification, mosquito nets, tools, a stove, kitchen equipment, and materials for children were given out. Distribution continues.
Health remains high on the list of relief priorities. According to the Pan American Health Organization on Jan. 28, more than 2,000 amputations have taken place since the earthquake and the need for post surgical care will rise with further amputations. Six tents were stationed outside the PAHO facility in anticipation. More physical therapists are needed. The PAHO website has an online volunteer registry.
The U.S. military, as of Jan. 28, had admitted 605 patients to the hospital ship USNS Comfort. Other U.S. vessels in the area treated an unknown number of patients.
As of Feb. 1, some 270 medical professionals deployed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services treated 23,000 patients and performed 98 surgeries. The agency also activated portions of the National Disaster Medical System so U.S. hospitals can expand care and receive reimbursements up to 110% of Medicare rates.
Despite the expansion of the clean water program there has been an uptick in diarrhea.
Bill and Melinda Gates made a pledge that is particularly timely for Haiti. They pledged $10 billion over the next ten years for research, development, and the delivery of vaccines essential to reduce maternal and child mortality worldwide. This week UNICEF and partners are beginning to immunize 600,000 children under age five living in temporary shelters against measles, diphtheria, and tetanus.
The World Health Organization listed the medical supplies needed in Haiti on its website with guidelines to follow for donations.
Cleanup can begin in earnest, since emergency rescue efforts have ceased. There is an estimated 20 million cubic yards of rubble in Port-au-Prince. More than 32,000 Haitians are employed under the UN cash-for-work program. Many of them are part of the 20 teams cleaning up Port-au-Prince, 10 teams in Delmas, and 35 teams in Petite Goave. Cleanup teams in five communes in the Canape Vert neigborhood of Port-au-Prince are expected to start toay. The broader plan is to hire 100,000 more cleanup workers as work boots, gloves, and equipment become available.
Port capacity, among other things, has limited the availability of heavy equipment. Restoration of the south pier in Port-au-Prince is expected to double its present 30% capacity in a week or so. More than 100 ships are on route to Haiti and a method of prioritizing entry is being created.
The Haitian government estimates 112,405 deaths as of Jan. 31. The UN reports as Feb. 1, 92 staff members are dead including the leaders of the UN mission in Haiti and seven people are unaccounted for.
As of Jan. 31, 482,349 people left Port-au-Prince, which had a population of three million before the earthquake. Many Haitians migrated to provinces less affected by the original earthquake and its aftershocks. Their migration will stretch relief efforts across the country. Total Port-au-Prince residents displaced by the earthquake stood at an estimated 700,000 as of Jan. 31.
The Haitian National Police and UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) have launched a campaign to identify and return escaped prisoners believed to have heightened gang activity in several areas of Port-au-Prince.
Despite massive challenges ahead, donors and relief workers can feel proud of what has been accomplished in 23 days. Thousands of lives were saved each day. Continued support can help millions of Haitians survive.
For more information: visit www.usaid.gov and www.reliefweb.int/.