Help to Haiti after the earthquake

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International efforts to help Haiti in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake are under way, as governments around the world and aid agencies mobilise search and rescue teams and aid supplies.

Although the full scale of the disaster has yet to emerge, it is clear that it will pose a huge challenge.

Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is still struggling to recover from devastating hurricanes in 2008.

It needs all kinds of help, from emergency and medical aid, to food aid, to the longer-term rebuilding of infrastructure.

UNITED STATES

US President Barack Obama has pledged to give the people of Haiti the country’s “full support” and to mount a “swift, co-ordinated and aggressive” effort there, co-ordinated by the country’s international development agency – USAID .

He said that the country had already mobilised military over-flights to assess the extent of the damage and that civilian disaster assistance teams were already beginning to arrive in the country. Search and rescue teams were expected to arrive over the coming days, he added.

Pentagon officials said that the US military had ordered an aircraft carrier and three ships, including one which can carry up to 2,000 US Marines, to set sail for Haiti.

The US Coast Guard said it had “mobilized cutters and aircraft to positions in close proximity to Haiti to render humanitarian assistance as needed”.

Haitian communities across the US, including south Florida where an estimated 275,000 Haitians live, are also organizing donations and relief efforts.

AID AGENCIES

Several international aid agencies have offices and staff in Haiti, usually working on long-term aid and reconstruction.

As news of the quake emerged, these organizations began to mobilize their emergency response teams.

Oxfam says it has staff ready, including a public health, water and sanitation team in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

A spokeswoman said the organization also had emergency supplies in Panama, which could be brought in.

The International Red Cross says it is releasing emergency funds to help deal with the disaster. The Red Cross has supplies in Haiti which can help some 3,000 families for three to four days, a spokesman at Red Cross headquarters in Geneva said.

It is also gearing up to fly more supplies in from Panama.

The British Red Cross has launched an appeal in the UK and has released £200,000 ($325,000) from its disaster fund to ensure money is immediately available.

The international humanitarian group, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said many people had gone for treatment at its facilities in Port-au-Prince but that its buildings had been seriously damaged.

MSF is planning to send additional staff to Haiti to help workers based there.

UNITED NATIONS

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said $10m would be released immediately from the world body’s central emergency response fund to assist aid efforts. He said an emergency appeal for additional funds from member states would follow.

Bill Clinton: ”What we need now is food, water, supplies”

The UN World Food Programme – which already runs extensive feeding operations in the country – said it would begin distributing high energy biscuits, which require no preparation before being consumed.

The agency also said it would airlift 86 metric tons of food from its emergency hub in El Salvador, allowing 30,000 people in urgent need of food to be fed for up to seven days.

The UN stabilization force in Haiti, Minustah, has said a large number of its personnel are unaccounted for after a building at its headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed.

Minustah has some 9,065 police and troops stationed in Haiti, as well as 488 international civilian staff and local staff. Its forces are drawn from more than 40 countries, including Brazil, China and Pakistan.

Several Minustah nations have said they are preparing to send aid.

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