Thursday, January 14, 2010
Countries and organizations from around the world are sending aid and help to victims of the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday, damaging many buildings. The death toll is currently unknown, but estimated to run into the tens of thousands of people.
US president Barack Obama said in a press conference that “I’ve directed my administration to launch a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives and support the recovery in Haiti.”
Obama announced that aid from the US armed forces was coming to Haiti, noting, “Several Coast Guard cutters are already there providing everything from basic services like water, to vital technical support for this massive logistical operation.”
Obama continued: “[…] today, I’m also announcing an immediate investment of $100 million to support our relief efforts. This will mean more of the life-saving equipment, food, water and medicine that will be needed. This investment will grow over the coming year as we embark on the long-term recovery from this unimaginable tragedy.”
Obama said that the US would forge partnerships with Haitian people and Haitian-Americans, along with United Nations peacekeepers. He closed by saying, “To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you.”
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said that $10 million is being released from the international organization’s central emergency response fund.
Meanwhile, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which already has an existing operation in the country, is beginning to distribute high energy biscuits which require no preparation before eating. On top of that, the WFP is airlifting 86 metric tons of food from their emergency hub in El Salvador.
A spokesperson for the WFP said, “In a normal day the World Food Programme will be feeding one or two million people in Haiti — and now we need to do even more, because the people have lost everything.”
China is also pledging aid to the country, despite the lack of official diplomatic ties between the two countries. Haiti recognizes the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan. Nevertheless, China has sent a 60 member search and rescue team to Haiti and the Chinese Red Cross is donating one million dollars in emergency aid.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said her country expresses sympathy to the Haitian government and people. Jiang says the Chinese foreign minister has sent a telegram of condolence to his Haitian counterparts.
An 80 member team from the United Kingdom of search and rescue specialists has arrived in Haiti to help in efforts there. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a joint press conference with Toaiseach of Ireland Brian Cowen that the team has arrived in the country. He also announced that the government is pledging to match the UN’s US$10 million (£6.1 million).
Brown said, “It is a tragedy beyond imagination and there is a deep sense of loss felt by the whole of the British and Irish people about the tragedy that individual families in Haiti are experiencing at the moment. We send our message of sympathy and support to the people of Haiti at this most difficult of times.”
He added, “Where men, women and children are suffering under the heaviest of burdens, that place must, for that moment, become the centre of our world’s attention, the world’s compassion and the world’s humanitarian help.”
France is also sending aid to the French-speaking country, which at one time was a colony of France known as Saint-Domingue. France is sending two planes with rescuers and aid. Civil safety authorities in France are sending a team of 130 members consisting of rescuers, trained rescue dogs, doctors and nurses along with 12,000 tons of aid and rescue supplies.
Israel is sending rescue forces in two El Al planes carrying a 121-member delegation that includes 40 doctors, five search-and-rescue teams, and an army rescue squad. The IDF medical teams are preparing to spend two weeks in Haiti.
Spain has pledged $4.3 million (€3 million) in aid money and has 150 tons of aid ready to be delivered.
South Africa is sending a team of search and rescue specialists to Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake on Tuesday. It is the first of several teams being sent by a local civic group.
The head of South Africa’s Gift of the Givers Foundation, Emtiaz Sooliman, says his group is sending up to three teams of search and rescue specialists to Haiti to help victims of the earthquake and hopefully save some lives.
“These are people who have worked with building collapses, urban search and rescue and some of them have been involved in responding to previous earthquakes so they are highly skilled,” he said.
Sooliman says a second team is to depart as soon as he can book a flight for it.