Haiti: "I have to salute the courage of the Haitian Red Cross..."
Yves Giovannoni is the ICRC's head of operations for Latin America and the Caribbean and was in Haiti just before the events unraveled. Highlights from an interview he gave to icrc.org on his return to Geneva.
The ICRC is launching an appeal for funds for its work in Haiti – how much does it need and what will the money be used for?
YG: The total appeal is for 4.6 million Swiss francs (USD 3.6 M / EUR 2.9 M), of which 3.6 million francs will be for medical and surgical activities. We have to reinforce the hospital structures in Port-au-Prince – we can't exclude the possibility of further violence and more wounded, so we have to be ready...
We're also planning to strengthen the capacity of the hospital at Gonaïves in the north, which has been closed for three weeks. It has to be able to deal with surgical cases and any other kind of medical need.
What struck you most about the affect of the armed violence on civilians?
YG: The hospitals have been under pressure and the care leaves a lot to be desired – there have been supply difficulties, but also great security problems: several times armed men have burst into various hospitals in the capital and other cities. The personnel, obviously terrified, hid at home and there was no-one to care for the patients.
How can the ICRC's partners in the international movement help now?
YG: I really have to salute the courage of the Haitian Red Cross (HRC) teams – they kept on working throughout that critical weekend (NB: February 28-29) , in very difficult circumstances, collecting the wounded and taking them to hospital.
The ICRC and the HRC are gradually expanding their activities in the regions affected by the fighting. It's important that other partners support the national society, through donations and training. The International Federation has the expertise, along with the French and Dutch Red Cross societies [which are both working on the spot ] .
What can ICRC do to improve respect for doctors and nurses?
YG: We are in touch with all the main groups involved –insurgents, political opposition, authorities, police and security forces, students – above all with people with guns. We try to persuade them to respect hospitals, medical personnel, ambulances... we've made some progress but a lot remains to be done.
We are also addressing the problems encountered by the civilian population – people suffered a lot in recent weeks. We are trying to convince the various parties to put a stop to such practises which, obviously, shouldn't happen anyway and don't exactly do their image much good...