From American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern:
I can tell you that this is a devastating disaster with widespread extensive damage. Many buildings are pancaked flat, the streets are filled with rubble and people. The infrastructure of the country is in severely damaged – airports, ports and roads – making it very difficult to get aid in.
It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever seen in my life. We want aid to move faster, too.
But there are glimmers of progress. Despite all of these logjams and bottlenecks, things are getting through. But it’s slow. The pipeline of getting materials into Haiti was a straw only a few days ago, and now it’s a garden hose, but we need it to become a fire hose.
Even with the challenges, we are truly making a difference.
I saw American Red Cross staff, armed with first aid kits, going out to treat people. They have a truck and a door that they were using as a stretcher, and they were taking injured to a field hospital run by Red Cross. Every time a Red Cross truck would go through the streets, the people would clear the way to let it pass.
The American Red Cross is in Haiti as part of the broader and coordinated Red Cross and Red Crescent network. We all have our roles; we all have our expertise, and we’re all working together. That is a very powerful engine for relief.
But what struck me most were the people of Haiti. In the area we visited, several hundred families were living under makeshift tents of sheets, blankets, plastic – anything they could drape over something for a little shelter
They were patient, not pushing for water or food. But they need our help.
I feel like I left a piece of my heart in Haiti, and please know that the Red Cross is going to do whatever we can to help the people of Haiti, both in the short term but also as part of what we know will be a vast and long-term recovery for this nation and its people.
In just the first week of the Haiti response effort, the American Red Cross already has spent or committed $34 million (approximately 25 percent of what has been pledged or received) as of Thursday, January 21.
We’ve committed and spent funds in three basic areas:
- food and water
- relief supplies
- logistical and support services
- 50 % of what has been committed or spent is being used to bring food and water to earthquake survivors. The American Red Cross is providing more 3 million pre-packaged meals, more than 1 million water purification packets and thousands of jerry cans so people can collect and transport clean drinking water.
- 30 % of what has been committed or spent so far is purchasing and distributing relief supplies. This includes items such as blanket, tarps, soap, hygiene supplies, kitchen sets and first aid supplies.
- 20 % of what has been committed or spent is providing the logistical support and other items needed to keep the relief effort running. This includes the purchase of vehicles to deliver relief supplies, warehouse space, gasoline, transportation costs and the deployment of our relief specialists. This category also includes the costs associated with the training and deployment of nearly 70 Creole speaking volunteers to the USNS Comfort.
This is only the beginning of the American Red Cross relief and recovery effort for Haiti.