Rotarians focus on Haiti relief
Top: Thousands of people are feared dead after a powerful earthquake crumbled government buildings, hospitals, schools, and shantytowns in Haiti.
Bottom: Elda Exeuatug holds her 20-day-old baby, waiting for relief to arrive. Photos by Mark Pearson/ShelterBox
11 February 2010
Rotary clubs and districts worldwide are mobilizing resources to deliver urgently needed relief to the millions affected by Haiti's devastating earthquake.
District 7020, which includes Haiti, has flown in 70 planes filled with more than 60,000 pounds of medical equipment and supplies into the cities of Pignon and Port-de-Paix to bypass logistical problems in the hard-hit capital of Port-au-Prince.
The United Nations estimates that more than half of the buildings in the capital have collapsed. About 200,000 people are dead and millions more homeless.
"Rotary had an incredible infrastructure established before the quake, which has made our relief efforts very effective," says Dick McCombe, past district governor and Haiti liaison chair. "We're flying in supplies through backdoor channels and doing things a lot of agencies can't do."
The district's Haiti Task Force, set up two years ago to administer all financial aid to the nation, is working with local clubs to deliver aid to Port-au-Prince and those who have taken refuge in the countryside.
McCombe says Rotary was in a good position to help in Haiti, with 33 projects already underway to provide water, sanitation, medical care, and education.
"We changed from teaching children how to read to saving their lives," says McCombe.
Clubs in the district have raised about US$1 million for short- and long-term recovery.
"Rotarians are incredibly generous and are doing what needs to be done," says McCombe. "We are setting aside some of these contributions for long-term recovery."
Rotarian Claude Surena, head of the Haiti Task Force and president of the Haitian Medical Association, is sheltering more than 100 injured people in his damaged home in Port-au-Prince. His house has become a makeshift hospital and medical distribution center.
Within the next two weeks, McCombe says, a barge will be hired to transport 20 to 30 tons of clothes, blankets, folding beds, and other items to Haiti from Nassau, Bahamas.
ShelterBox has already delivered more than 7,000 containers to Haiti, with thousands more scheduled to be deployed.
"This is the largest, quickest, and most complex deployment in our history," says John Leach, head of operations for ShelterBox. "We organized across four countries to get ShelterBoxes to the people of Haiti quickly."
Each box contains a tent that houses 10 people as well as a stove, blankets, and other essential items.
Doctors have been using supplies from the containers to treat the injured. Hospitals in the capital city are using the tents to provide emergency shelter for postoperative patients.
"There’s hundreds of thousands of people that are injured. The walking wounded are everywhere," says Mark Pearson, one of three ShelterBox response team members in Haiti. "People are getting taken to hospital now, eight, nine days later."
The Rotary Foundation has established the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, a donor advised fund primarily for U.S. Rotarians who want to donate toward recovery efforts. The fund has raised more than $500,000 so far.
A one-time $5 donation to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund can be made by texting ROTARY to 90999 .
Around the world, Rotary clubs, districts, and Interact and Rotaract clubs have donated directly to ShelterBox. Other Rotarian relief efforts in Haiti include:
- The Rotary Club of Tocoa, Colón, Honduras, has chartered three flights to send 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of food to Haiti.
- A six-person team from the Rotary clubs of Inwood, Manhattan, and New York is working with Comprehensive and Response Service to establish a staging area in the Dominican Republic for bringing medical supplies into Port-au-Prince.
- Past District Governor Alfonso Leppes launched a campaign asking each of the more than 4,500 Rotarians in Chile to donate $50 to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.
- Five Rotarian doctors from Venezuela are in Haiti as part of a search-and-rescue team established by their government.
Read about what Rotarians witnessed.
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