The most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the country struck Haiti yesterday, causing catastrophic destruction in the hemisphere's poorest nation. The quake struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince, the most densely populated part of Haiti, and thousands are feared dead. Most telephone communications throughout the country have also been destroyed complicating relief work.
The most urgent needs appear to be bandages, antibiotics, other basic medical supplies, and water tablets to prevent cholera outbreaks. The need for food and shelter is also growing especially given that these needs are severe in impoverished Haiti in the best of times.
There are numerous ways to help groups already on the ground. One of the best, Partners In Health, has been operating in the country since 1987, originally to deliver health care to the residents of Haiti's mountainous Central Plateau region. PiH now also operates clinics in Port au Prince and other major Haitian cities. With hospitals and a highly trained medical staff in place, the group is already mobilizing resources and preparing plans to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit.
Immediately after the quake, PIH's clinical director in Haiti, Louise Ivers, sent this desperate appeal for assistance via e-mail: "Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS... Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us." Donations to help earthquake relief efforts will be quickly routed to the disaster.
The women's group MADRE has also worked in Haiti for many years, supporting community-based organizations, and has activated an emergency response through its partner organization, Zanmi Lasante Clinic. The doctors, nurses and community health workers there are working to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit. MADRE's partners are expert at reaching those in crisis and stretching resources to meet the myriad needs facing Haitian women and families.
Teams from the group Doctors Without Borders were already working on medical projects in Haiti and have been treating victims of the quake since yesterday. Gifts to to the group's new Haiti Earthquake Response will support emergency medical care for the men, women, and children affected by the earthquake in Haiti.
Grassroots International has set up an emergency fund to assist its Haitian partners--local organizations that have been working for years for a sustainable and socially just future for Haiti.
Despite heavy damages to its own offices in Port-au-Prince, the UN relief organization UNICEF is coordinating donations of things like blankets, toothpaste, canned food and other basic staples. Call 1-800-4UNICEF or go to unicef.org for information.
Oxfam's Latin America emergency response team, which carries a strong track record of supporting local rebuilding rather than funneling money to outside contractors, is based in Port-au-Prince, and is thus well positioned to respond quickly.
And while all this relief work is saving lives, it's also critical to implore the Obama Administration to immediately authorize temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants. Tell the White House this is urgent.
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