Helping Haiti after its back-to-back disasters

Aid workers in Haiti are welcoming Canadian donations as they struggle to meet demand for medical services and shelter following last weekend’s earthquake that left over 2,100 dead and thousands injured and homeless. 

Efforts are now focused on urgent life-saving assistance in the Caribbean country following last week’s back-to-back disasters — the 7.2-magnitude earthquake followed by a tropical storm, says Chiran Livera, a rapid response manager for the Canadian Red Cross’s international operations.

WATCH | Hospitals can’t keep up 

‘Needs are huge,’ says doctor attending injured in Haiti

More medical supplies are badly needed to help some of the thousands of people who were injured in Saturday’s earthquake in Haiti, says Dr. Inobert Pierre, the director of St. Boniface Hospital in Fond-des-Blancs. (Paul Smith/CBC) 5:11

“It’s just a magnitude of one emergency after another,” Livera said.

He was referring to the earthquake and storm hitting the country as it grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, political instability following last month’s execution of president Jovenel Moïse, high rates of violent crime and rampant unemployment.

“The people, their resilience is incredible to withstand one, two, three, four emergencies like this,” said Livera. “So we want to focus on helping them regain their dignity and come back to self-sufficiency and help them through the recovery process.”

Victim Francois Elmay’s body is laid in a casket amid the rubble from Saturday’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake, in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Aug. 18. (Joseph Odelyn/The Associated Press)

Haiti has strong ties to Canada. Members of the largest Haitian community in Canada live in the census metropolitan area of Montréal, according to Stats Canada.

Donations roll in

The Red Cross has so far raised $700,000 via the Haiti Earthquake Appeal from individual Canadians and other private donations, Livera said. The funds are being used to purchase relief items locally in Haiti such as water, food and medicine. Additional supplies such as blankets, tarpaulins and jerrycans were brought in from a Panama warehouse.

A young relative attends Elmay’s burial after his body was recovered from the rubble of his home destroyed in the earthquake, in Haiti, on Aug. 18. (Joseph Odelyn/The Associated Press)

Charities across Canada are accepting monetary donations because it is the fastest way to get supplies on the ground.

UNICEF Canada has set up an emergency fund. The Humanitarian Coalition, an umbrella group for 12 Canada-based international aid agencies, has set up a Haiti-specific relief program that is accepting donations at this website.

Haiti’s unique geographic location makes it vulnerable to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed more than 250,000 and left more than 1.5 million homeless in the poverty-stricken country.

Roads washed away

On Thursday, lack of basic infrastructure was complicating the transport of food and medical supplies to villages after landslides caused by a tropical storm.

A major hospital in the capital of Port-au-Prince was shut down after the kidnapping of two doctors, including one of the country’s few orthopaedic surgeons.

WATCH | Aid efforts in Haiti hindered by landslides caused by heavy rains

Landslides hurt aid efforts in Haiti

The CBC’s Ellen Mauro reports from a road partially blocked by a boulder after a landslide between the towns of Camp-Perrin and Jeremie in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. 1:29

The goal on the ground in Haiti is two-pronged, says Livera, who speaks French and Haitian Creole and has visited the island for training and disaster relief.

The most immediate need for the country is medical aid, water, food, shelter and transportation to hospitals, he said.

But the Red Cross considers it equally important to invest in programs to train individual communities in Haiti to become self-sufficient with initiatives like community gardens, given how prone the country is to natural disasters.

“That’s why it’s so important to invest in preparedness and resilience of the people who make up the community there,” Livera said. “It’s community members helping community members.”

A man walks over rubble that covered a road during a landslide in River Glass, Haiti, On Aug. 18. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

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