Haiti earthquake: Aid effort shifts to long-term care
Two weeks after the 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti, relief workers are shifting from emergency aid to a second wave of challenges, such as providing safer, cleaner shelter for the more than 1 million people left homeless.
In the initial days after the Haitian earth shook violently Jan. 12 – flattening whole sections of the capital, cutting off services, and killing an estimated 150,000 people – the priority was on search and rescue as well as emergency food and medical assistance.Skip to next paragraph
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Now, two weeks after the earthquake that brought Haiti to a halt and left perhaps 1 million people homeless in the capital alone, the massive international aid effort is shifting.
While most of the 2,500 search-and-rescue personnel who swarmed in from all corners of the globe have returned home, attention is falling increasingly on long-term care for the hundreds of thousands of wounded, providing sanitation before disease-breeding conditions set in, and moving perhaps a million people out of precarious, makeshift camps into safer, cleaner, and better organized tent communities.
“It’s noticeably calmer. There’s not that life-or-death urgency about pulling out trapped people or providing first aid, but there’s going to be a second wave of problems that will be just as critical,” says Skyler Badenoch, manager of international programs for Build On, a Connecticut-based organization that specializes in building rural primary schools.
Already in Haiti to build schools in the country’s south, Mr. Badenoch now finds himself managing a latrine project at a camp in the capital’s Carrefour district – “because if we don’t get sanitation going, things are going to get real bad, real quick.”
Despite early complaints of a slow mobilization of international resources – particularly from the United States – and confusion over who was in charge of a massive intervention involving hundreds of countries, international agencies, and relief organizations, the results after two weeks are impressive.
Some 300,000 people are receiving water and food rations every day, with the latter number expected to jump to 1 million a day by the end of the week, according to Haitian health officials. After an initial lack of medical supplies that left some Haitian doctors performing amputations without anesthesia, thousands of life-saving surgeries have been performed and medical supplies are generally plentiful.
Clean-up and rebuilding
The US and other countries are now bringing in heavy equipment like trucks and bulldozers for the massive cleanup and rebuilding effort to come. One UN official estimates that the US alone has mobilized about $1 billion in aid, equipment, and personnel.
“There’s always a certain amount of fog of war at the outset of this kind of operation, but the coordination has come along quickly with the focus on working with the Haitian government,” says Thomas Sizemore, principal deputy director of preparedness and emergency operations for the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Appearing with Haiti’s Minister of Health Alex Larsen at a Monday press conference announcing the formation of 19 public health rapid assessment teams, Dr. Sizemore said the task now is to address public health concerns before they become critical. “We are moving from the emergency and acute response [phase] to tackling the health threats and demands now facing those who survived the quake,” he says.
Mr. Larsen says enough tents have already been secured to build camps to house 400,000 people “in a decent, safe, and healthy environment.” But Haitian President René Préval said 200,000 more tents were needed before the expected start of the rainy season in May.