Local Red Cross eyes Haitian reliefPublished 11:13am Friday, January 15, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake, a severe 7.0 magnitude that all but leveled prominent buildings and residences, displacing thousands – the loss of life still undeterminable – has put the needs of an already struggling country in the spotlight and has resulted in a global relief effort.
“I’ve directed my administration to launch a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives and support the recovery in Haiti,” President Barack Obama said Thursday.
“The losses that have been suffered in Haiti are nothing less than devastating,” he continued. “And responding to a disaster of this magnitude will require every element of our national capacity – our diplomacy and development assistance; the power of our military; and, most importantly, the compassion of our country.”
Nationwide, the Red Cross has been keeping its offices apprised of the efforts being made on behalf of the international organization.
“There have been no calls for volunteers from local chapters,” said Angie Laskarides, executive director of the Berrien County Red Cross.
Response to a disaster suffered such as Haiti’s differs from a domestic situation, Laskarides explained.
“Normally, international assignments require fluency in the language in the country,” she said. Volunteers also commit their help for a three-month term.
Though there are no volunteers heading out to aid in the relief efforts, area offices are helping in taking donations, informing those eager to help about how to do so and doing their best to help family members who are trying desperately to get in touch with loved ones.
“The phones have been very busy today and we are referring them (callers) to the numbers and web sites and of course we have been accepting donations as well,” Laskarides said. “We are sending 100 percent to the international disaster relief fund.”
She said an estimated $500 had been received in donations on Thursday alone.
In addition to the president’s remarks on the current situation in Haiti, the Red Cross as a whole announced it would be sending more money from its international disaster relief fund to the devastated country.
“Yesterday it was $200,000,” she said. “Today it’s $10 million.”
That money is entirely made of donations from the general public.
The Red Cross is trained and built upon the idea of being prepared for catastrophes -but in the case of a foreign country the movement to help can be slowed. Volunteers must have a valid passport and ample time for transport to wherever they’re going.
The biggest resource in need now, is money.
“That was the same was true of Katrina,” she said.
Water, food and clothing are all needed by those who have been left homeless, many in the streets of Port-au-Prince, living under makeshift tents.
The International Red Cross must work through Haitian officials as well to get resources to those who need them.
“Everything has to be authorized including the method of transportation,” Laskarides said. “…getting communications restored, finding permanent shelter, medical help… it’s frustrating because Haiti was struggling before the earthquake.”
The quake has been deemed the worst to hit the county in more than 200 years. Laskarides said the United States Navy and the United Nations were scheduled to “work together within that country” to keep peace and provide emergency assistance.
The situation is a reminder, Laskarides said for both foreign and domestic situations that could result in absolute devastation.
“The preparation comes into play,” she said. “But you see, that it took 48 hours for help to get there. That is not uncommon. It reinforces the fact that we need to be prepared to be able to survive on our own for three days.”
As resources continue to pour into the country, one the people of Haiti must hang on to, it seems, is hope.
What you can do to help:
There are many ways to help in effort to aid the people of Haiti severely affected by Tuesday’s earthquake.
For those who have loved ones in that area visit www.icrc.org/familylinks.
For doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and others with technical expertise who are interested in going to Haiti to help, visit www.cidi.org. Be advised a valid passport is needed.
Information sent to those sites will be visible and available once entered into the Haitian side of the system.
To contact the Department of State Office of Overseas Citizen Services call (888) 407-4747
To donate immediately to the Haitian relief fund, text the word “Haiti” to 90999. The system automatically works with cell phone plan providers and will donate $10 to the Red Cross. The amount will simply be added to the next cell phone bill.