Friday, January 22, 2010

Food for 50,000 at Haiti Camp

By Michael Hill
Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services is increasing our delivery of aid to the people of Haiti, preparing to hand out supplies to feed 50,000 people at a camp in Port-au-Prince as we take over food delivery in the devastated town of Leogane.

Working with the parishes of Port-au-Prince, CRS is also identifying up to 50 points throughout the city that will be used for food distribution that could reach as many as 150,000. Parish personnel will organize the distributions, registering recipients, as CRS provides food and logistical support. This comes as flights head to Haiti, filled with those who will tend to its sick and injured and those who will mourn its dead.

A team of doctors from the University of Maryland, Baltimore — a partner with CRS in the AIDSRelief consortium that works to combat that disease in Haiti — is heading to Haiti to assess bringing in more University of Maryland doctors to staff the St. Francois de Sales hospital.

CRS helped to get this heavily damaged site — one of the largest and oldest hospitals in Port-au-Prince — back in operation. AIDSRelief had been active at St. Francois de Sales and an AIDSRelief doctor from the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology is already at work there along with many Haitian and international medical teams. The additional University of Maryland doctors would open a fourth operating room.

CRS President Ken Hackett is in Haiti with Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, the CRS board chairman; and Msgr. David Malloy, the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They will attend the Saturday funeral of Joseph Serge Miot, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince who died in the January 12 earthquake. The funeral and burial will be held on the grounds of the city's cathedral, which lies in ruins.

The flight will also bring relief supplies. Archbishop Dolan says that he will take the opportunity to visit CRS workers and assess how the Church in the United States can best help our efforts.

The generous outpouring of support continues as CRS has raised more than $19 million for Haiti relief, with many donations still to be tallied.

This ramp-up in aid delivery comes as CRS relief workers helped turn the golf course of the Petionville Club into a functioning camp for displaced people. An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 people have been taking shelter at the course. Tokens will be handed out to 10,000 of the families staying there, who will use them to receive the rations — a mixture of corn and soy grains and vegetable oil that will feed a family of five for two weeks.

"We are able to do this because of the security and logistical help provided by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne," said Annemarie Reilly, CRS' vice president for overseas operations. "Their help is invaluable."

The food comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development's Food for Peace program—supplies that were either already in Haiti or on the way when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck. Initial relief and recovery efforts focused on Port-au-Prince, where at least a third of the city's 3 million people were affected.

As relief workers began heading out of Port-au-Prince in the days after the quake, they found towns to the west that suffered similar or even worse damage along with thousands of residents who had received no help. One of these towns is Leogane, about 15 miles west of Port-au-Prince, near the quake's epicenter. CRS did an initial food distribution there Wednesday, January 20, as other members of the international Catholic aid group Caritas Internationalis handed out tarpaulins and other supplies.

Now CRS has been asked to take on large-scale food distributions in Leogane and is organizing the delivery and security needed to get help to 50,000 people there. Residents say that as many as 500 nuns, priests and students were crushed to death when Sainte Rose de Lima School collapsed in the quake.

CRS has been working in Haiti for more than 50 years with a variety of aid and development projects. The last emergency response there was in 2008 when a series of major storms caused extensive damage. Now some cities that were devastated by those storms—such as Gonaives—are taking in those displaced from Port-au-Prince. CRS is working to make sure these people have food and shelter.

"We have been in Haiti for a long time and we will be here for a long time to come," said CRS Country Representative Karel Zelenka. "The work in recovering from this disaster has just begun."

Michael Hill is CRS' communications officer for sub-Saharan Africa. He is based at the agency's headquarters in Baltimore.

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