21 January 2010
The British Red Cross is sending an emergency hygiene team to Haiti, with urgently needed sanitation equipment for the hundreds of thousands of people now living in temporary shelters or staying in makeshift camps.
The team of four are bringing 110 emergency latrines, a mini JCB digger and other essential hygiene kit. This mass sanitation emergency response unit (ERU) is able to deal with the sanitation needs of up to 20,000 people in the aftermath of an emergency. GlaxoSmithKline has made a donation of £250,000 to support the team and their specialist equipment. The company previously supported the deployment of the mass sanitation ERU to Zimbabwe in December 2008 in response to the cholera outbreak.
Sharon Reader, ERU team member, said: “With so many thousands of people living out in the open air, sanitation becomes absolutely paramount to prevent the spread of disease. It’s important to get good, safe latrines built for public health reasons, and to give people some dignity in this desperate situation. We will also be doing hygiene promotion work to help people keep clean and safe. The work of our team will be absolutely vital for making sure survivors, who have already been through so much, can stay healthy.”
Relief effort intensifies
Nine days after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, as relief efforts intensify, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is reaching tens of thousands of people.
However, the situation on the ground remains desperate for survivors living amidst the rubble. Simon Schorno, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman in Port-au-Prince, said: "Although people and, in some cases, the local authorities have started to organise to find water or to collect trash, hygiene is becoming a big problem.”
The Red Cross has already sent seventeen emergency response units (ERU), from around the world, to provide support in water and sanitation, logistics, IT and telecommunication infrastructure, health facilities and medical aid. The British Red Cross logistics ERU has been in the Dominican Republic since 16 January, co-ordinating the delivery of aid being trucked to Haiti. The sanitation ERU being deployed today will provide additional support to the massive operation in Port-au-Prince.
Clean water for over 12,000 people
The ICRC is now providing water for over 12,000 people living in three makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince. "Tanker trucks bring water several times a day to reservoirs we have installed so that families in the camps can drink and wash throughout the day," explained Ikthiar Aslanov, an ICRC water and sanitation engineer.
"After the horror and difficulties of recent days, it is a joy to see children drink clean water and wash themselves," said Ugo Mora, another ICRC engineer.
Red Cross workers continue to provide medical aid to survivors and support to struggling hospitals. The Norwegian Red Cross has set up a field hospital and more medical supplies have been delivered to the Hôpital de la Paix in Port-au-Prince and to the Haitian Red Cross first aid post in the shantytown of Martissant.
Healthcare outside Port-au-Prince
Red Cross health teams have reached Petit-Goâve, a coastal town some 70 kilometres south-west of Port-au-Prince, where they set up two first aid posts that are now being staffed by Haitian Red Cross volunteers. First aid kits were also delivered to treat up to 500 patients.
A Red Cross team also went to Léogane, a city south-west of the capital, for a second time. "Unfortunately there is as much suffering in Léogane as there is in Port-au-Prince," said Hassan Nasreddine, the ICRC surgeon who led the health team. "So far, many patients in Léogane could not be treated because the city's main hospital lacks everything."
The Red Cross will deliver medical supplies to the city in the coming days.
Handling the dead with dignity
The Red Cross is distributing body bags, body tags, gloves, masks and other essential items to local mortuaries. Two ICRC forensic experts have arrived in Port-au-Prince to advise the Haitian authorities on the proper collection of information on the dead and on the dignified handling of bodies.
"We want to help dispel the myth that the dead spread disease, which is prevalent in Port-au-Prince and has led to mass cremations and pit burials," said Morris Tidball-Binz, who is overseeing the ICRC's forensics efforts in the city.
The British Red Cross is fundraising as part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – which brings together 13 leading UK charities in times of major crises. So far, thanks to the unprecedented generosity of the public, the DEC has raised £38 million. However, the sheer scale of this disaster means much more will be needed.
In the event that we raise more money than can be reasonably and efficiently spent, any surplus funds will be used to help us prepare for and respond to other humanitarian disasters either overseas or here in the UK.
Find out more about relief distributions and what we are doing to help in Haiti