Episcopal Relief & Development Coordinates Initial Haiti Disaster Response

January 14, 2010

In the wake of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, Episcopal Relief & Development has reached out to its Haitian partners to coordinate a response. Recent estimates indicate that Tuesday’s devastating quake has affected one in three Haitians, roughly three million people. The infrastructure of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, including the cathedral and Diocesan offices, is in ruins and the situation on the ground is dire. 

The attempts of search and rescue teams have been made difficult by the extreme destruction – roads are impassable, buildings have been reduced to rubble and many hospitals and clinics are inoperable. In addition, limited communications are hampering attempts to coordinate relief efforts.

While Haiti’s airspace was opened briefly on Thursday, priority was given to rescue operations such as the Red Cross, UN coordinated efforts and national response teams. Updated reports indicate that the limited infrastructure at Port-au-Prince airport has been unable to handle the influx of flights, and runways have once again been closed due to overcrowded runways and lack of fuel. Ports also remain closed and there is no indication they will be opened in the immediate future.

“The neighboring Diocese of the Dominican Republic is already serving the wounded who have been able to cross the Haitian border,” said Kirsten Muth, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Interim Director for International Programs. “Working through the Dominican Republic and utilizing our existing relationships with partners there is one of the most efficient initial approaches for meeting immediate needs.”

Katie Mears, Program Manager for USA Disaster Preparedness and Response, will be traveling to the Dominican Republic imminently to further assess the situation and coordinate the agency’s response to this disaster.

“Normally, following a disaster of this magnitude, we would send emergency funds to partners in the affected area, enabling them to obtain the supplies necessary to meet immediate needs such as food, shelter and water,” said Mears. “However, the lack of resources available on the ground in Haiti makes it necessary to bring in supplies through the Dominican Republic.”

“I will be working with the Diocesan staff of the Dominican Republic to overcome the logistical challenges of getting supplies to our partners in Haiti,” Mears continued. “Our hope is to be prepared so that when roads become passable, we can get help to affected Haitians as quickly as possible.”

For the most up to date information and access to resources, visit https://www.episcopalrelief.org/Haiti. Included on this page is a video statement from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Episcopal Relief & Development President Rob Radtke. A downloadable bulletin insert is also available in both English and Spanish.

To assist those suffering in the wake of this disaster, please consider making a donation to the Haiti Earthquake Response Fund at www.episcopalrelief.org or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058. Please write “Haiti Earthquake Response Fund” in the memo of all checks.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development strengthens communities today to meet tomorrow’s challenges. We rebuild after disasters and empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.