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Haiti earthquake: despite aftershock, situation slowly improving

21-01-2010 Operational Update

Despite Wednesday's aftershock, aid is starting to reach the survivors of the devastating earthquake. However, hundreds of thousands living on the streets of Port-au-Prince, and tens of thousands outside the capital, still do not have access to many basic services.

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    ©ICRC/M. Kokic/ht-e-00465 
    Earthquake victims who have set up camp outside the ICRC delegation receive drinking water. The ICRC is trucking the water in and transferring it to a storage bladder for distribution. 
      ©ICRC/M. Kokic/ht-e-00454    
    The ICRC helps people living in tents in the Canape Vert district of Port-au-Prince to re-establish contact with relatives via satellite phone.    
      ©ICRC/M. Kokic/ht-e-00460    
    Canapé Vert residents living in improvized tents. Many have lost their homes, while others are afraid to return home because of aftershocks.    
      ©ICRC/M. Kokic/ht-e-00469    
    Port-au-Prince. ICRC staff attempt to recover bodies from Port-au-Prince civilian prison.    
  Situation in Port-au-Prince

The strong aftershock that struck Haiti on Wednesday a few kilometres south-west of Port-au-Prince rattled already exhausted earthquake victims. " Uncertainty is what most people I met spoke about, " reported the ICRC's spokesman in Haiti, Simon Schorno. " However, the people of Haiti are incredibly resilient and despite the pain, hardship and chaos, a semblance of normality seems to be returning to Port-au-Prince. "

" It is good to see that aid is starting to reach the victims, " said Riccardo Conti, head of the ICRC delegation in Haiti. " Aid organizations are becoming more visible in many neighbourhoods and water is available at many water points throughout the city. The efforts of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including those of the ICRC, are making a difference. However, the humanitarian situation remains very difficult if not critical. Hundreds of thousands of people who live in the streets of Port-au-Prince still do not have access to such basic necessities as shelter and sanitation. "

On the ground, the ICRC is working closely with the Haitian National Red Cross Society. The international relief effort of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is coordinated and led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. For more details on the overall Red Cross Red Crescent response to the earthquake, go to www.ifrc.org   First-aid posts in the capital and Petit-Goâve

Together with the Haitian Red Cross, the ICRC has set up three first-aid posts in the Primatur, Carrefour-Feuille and Carrefour neighbourhoods in or near Port-au-Prince. " Medical care has been limited so far, and people expect the Red Cross to help them because we were working here before the earthquake, " explained Roberto Forin, an ICRC delegate who has worked in Port-au-Prince for almost a year now. The posts are staffed by Haitian Red Cross first-aid providers who usually live in the areas they serve.

On Wednesday, ICRC surgeon Hassan Nasreddine visited Petit-Goâve, a coastal town some 70 kilometres south-west of Port-au-Prince, where the ICRC set up two first-aid posts now being run by the Haitian Red Cross. " About 15 per cent of the city has been destroyed by the earthquake, and there is very limited access to clean water, medical care, sanitation and shelter, " he said. " People are tense after the strong aftershock of yesterday morning. Many people say that they move out of the city at night to sleep in the surrounding mountains. "

  Water for the poorest of the poor

ICRC water and sanitation engineers met with the Port-au-Prince water authorities to better assess the city's water needs. Of particular concern is the situation in Cité-Soleil, one of the capital's poorest neighbourhoods, which is currently facing an acute shortage of water. The ICRC renovated Cité-Soleil's entire water supply system in 2007 and is currently working to repair the area's water network, including its main water tower, which was severely damaged by the earthquake.

The ICRC continues to provide clean water for over 12,000 homeless people living in three camps, including one located right next to the ICRC office in the Delmas area. It also pays for garbage collection in all three camps.

  Port-au-Prince tracing office much in demand

People eager to re-establish contact with their loved ones started to arrive at the new tracing office, at Haitian Red Cross headquarters in the Croix-de-Prez neighbourhood, as soon as it opened. " We were surprised how quickly people found out about the office. It shows that our service, which helps people to renew contact with their loved ones, is very important to the survivors, " said Marc Studer, the ICRC tracing specialist who set up the facility together with his counterparts in the Haitian Red Cross.

A jingle encouraging the public to use the tracing service is now playing on local radios. " We will also send out pick-up trucks mounted with loudspeakers to drive around town, especially near the largest camps, and let people know that they can get in touch with relatives through the Red Cross, " added Pierre Barras, who heads the ICRC tracing team.

On Wednesday, the ICRC and the Haitian Red Cross enabled 343 people in Port-au-Prince to make phone calls to relatives living abroad. They also registered the names of 178 individuals eager to let their loved ones know that they were alive and well on the ICRC family links website ( www.icrc.org/familylinks ). So far, more than 23,900 names have been registered on this website. Nearly 1,800 of these are people signalling that they are safe and alive.   For further information, please contact:
  Simon Schorno, ICRC Port-au-Prince, mobile: +509 3456 3392 or +41 79 251 9302, satellite tel: +88 165 146 6175
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2458 or +41 79 217 32 24

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