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Haiti earthquake: ICRC bringing medical aid and assessing water needs

15-01-2010 Operational Update No 03 / 2010

Amid an increasingly desperate situation for survivors of Tuesday's earthquake, ICRC staff on the ground have been distributing medical aid and assessing water needs.

   
©Reuters/Ho New 
 
A doctor treats an injured woman in the parking lot of the general hospital in Port-au-Prince. 
     

 
  ©Reuters/Jorge Silva    
 
  A resident sits with a few salvaged belongings in an area of Port-au-Prince completely destroyed by the devastating earthquake that hit the capital on 12 January 2010. 
      

 General Situation  

Thousands of victims of Tuesday's devastating earthquake have had to spend a third night out in the open, while the chances of locating further survivors continue to diminish. People are camping out at around 40 gathering points throughout the city, too scared to spend the night inside damaged buildings that could collapse at any moment.

With every passing hour, the extent of the damage in Port-au-Prince is becoming clearer. Some 15 areas of the city are reported to have been badly affected, with at least 70% of buildings having been destroyed. Regular aftershocks contribute, fuelling the sense of anxiety throughout the city.

The ICRC is working closely with its Red Cross partners on the ground to assess humanitarian needs and to deliver relief assistance. An evaluation of public and private hospitals and medical structures showed that most of them were stretched to the limit, with not enough doctors or nurses to handle the continuing arrival of the wounded. Other Red Cross reports indicate that most hospitals are full and no longer in a position to admit new patients.

Hospitals, in particular, have been badly affected by water shortages. Local authorities reported that many pumping stations and other structures are currently not working because of a lack of personnel and fuel needed to run generators in the absence of regular power supplies, which have been severely affected by the quake. Many water pipes are likely to have been damaged.

The ICRC has been able to inspect several prisons, where, prior to the disaster, it regula rly visited detainees to monitor their living conditions and treatment. The central prison was completely destroyed, meaning that up to 4,000 prisoners escaped.

 ICRC activities  

The international relief activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, including those of the ICRC, are being coordinated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. A team of 11 ICRC emergency experts has arrived in Port-au-Prince from Geneva, while a cargo plane carrying 40 tonnes of medical supplies is in the air and expected to reach the area on Friday evening local time. On 14 January, ICRC workers in Port-au-Prince distributed medical assistance to five major hospitals and clinics, as well as to smaller facilities set up by local doctors in areas with a high concentration of earthquake survivors.

Meanwhile, the ICRC's office in the Haitian capital is preparing for the arrival of several Emergency Response Units sent by Red Cross societies from across the world. These include a field hospital, mobile health units and water and sanitation units. The ICRC will be working with the Federation and the Haitian Red Cross to enable these arriving specialists to be operational as soon as possible.

 Family Links  

Since it was activated on Wednesday, thousands of people have registered with the ICRC's special website dedicated to helping people who have lost contact with a loved one because of the earthquake. By Friday lunchtime more than 13,800 names had been registered on the ICRC's special website dedicated to helping people who have lost contact with a loved one because of the earthquake. Practically all of these are people being sought by relatives. About 1,100 people have registered on the site to inform their loved ones that they are safe and well.

The site's address is www.icrc.org/familylinks .   For further information, please contact:
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17 (On Friday)
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 24 (On Friday)
  Anna Nelson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 3264 (Over the weekend)
  ICRC out-of-hours duty phone, tel: +41 22 730 3443