Haiti relief as necessary as ever

The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, responsible for disaster relief, charity and the cooperation between Catholic charities, published this press release today:

“In light of the request of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ that Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international humanitarian agency of the Bishops of the United States, co-ordinate the Church’s relief efforts in Haiti at this stage, CRS has been holding on-site meetings with the Haitian Episcopal Conference, the apostolic nuncio and several foreign Catholic charitable agencies, now operating in Port-au-Prince, to asses and respond to the disaster.

“The group initiated immediately the provision of food, water, clothing, shelter and medical aid for the displaced survivors in informal camps. Twelve sites have now been jointly determined as distribution points for further provision with security and operational assessments already undertaken. Personnel and supplies from neighbouring Santo Domingo and other nations continue to arrive through a variety of Catholic aid organisations.

“As with previous disasters, the concrete generosity of Churches, institutions and individuals worldwide is again being manifested. The needs and challenges remain significant, particularly on the level of movement of goods and people and security, and are likely to grow as the effects of the earthquake in and beyond Port-au-Prince become increasingly evident”.

Despite all the problems that face the relief workers in Haiti, it seems that progress, however slow is being made. And there are signs of hope too: a 69-year old woman was rescued yesterday from the rubble of the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, six days after it collapsed. A Mexican aid worker was clearing rubble when the woman grabbed his hand. The woman said that she relied on God and was singing when she was pulled out of the rubble. “When I felt that she had grabbed my hand and squeezed it, it felt like God was squeezing my hand,” the man who found her said later.

The cathedral in Port-au-Prince - still relatively intact compared to other parts of the city.

The devastation and the human drama in Haiti continues to be heartbreaking. The international relief effort is already dubbed the largest in history, but many bottlenecks and bad infrastructure mean that much of it does not reach the victims. Even basic needs such as water and food still await transport into affected areas.

In the Netherlands, the bishops endorse donating to Giro 555, the national relief effort, radiostations and tv station are teaming up to collect funds, and private collections at Mass are dedicated to the Haiti relief. One charity effort is that by Jong Katholiek, the youth organisation of the Dutch Church. They have chosen to focus their efforts on supporting Father Rick Frechette, who is in charge of the St. Damien children’s hospital, one of the few working hospitals in the area. There is a need for everything, though, from bandages and morphine to body bags and even simple pens to make up files. On 23 January, Jong Katholiek will host a fundraising event in Den Bosch.