The most immediate and useful way to help millions of Haitians affected by the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake is still through cash donations, an aid worker has advised.
“Unfortunately a lot of people aren’t keen on giving money. They want to do something more concrete. But in fact, if they really want to help, money is the most useful thing,” said Sarah Wilson, a communicator from Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, a global humanitarian alliance of churches and agencies. “Even here, we’re going to be distributing money in limited quantities to certain people because there is food available to buy, [it’s] just that people don’t have any money.” (Anglican Journal interviewed Wilson in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince via Skype, a software application that allows telephone calls via the Internet.)
Canadian Anglicans have responded to an appeal for Haiti launched by The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and rehabilitation agency of the Anglican Church of Canada, which is an ACT member. As of Thursday morning, Jan. 21, PWRDF had received a total of $ 316,194 in donations, not including cheques in the mail from parishes and proceeds from fundraising events that are being planned.
Donations received by Feb. 12 are eligible for matching funds from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
From an engineering point of view, the reconstruction of earthquake-ravaged areas could cost billions of dollars and take years, McGill University engineering professor Saeed Mirza told the Ottawa Citizen. On Monday, 11 nations will meet in Montreal to discuss what can be done to help rebuild the impoverished nation.
More aid is reaching earthquake-affected areas, although Wilson acknowledged that there are still people who haven’t received help simply because “there are an awful lot of people who need it than aid is arriving.” Much-needed relief efforts have been hampered by fuel shortages, damaged infrastructure and the sheer scale of the disaster that has affected not just Port-au-Prince, but also neighbouring suburbs, according to the United Nations’ Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Red Cross said that up to three million Haitians have been affected by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake. An estimated 200,000 people have been killed, but aid agencies said the death toll could remain unknown as bodies are simply being buried in mass graves.
ACT members have been delivering aid to affected areas in various ways — from sending medical teams to handing out food, household items and tarpaulins. Jerry cans for storing water and water purification packets are the biggest needs because people don’t have access to clean water, said Wilson. Plastic sheeting for tents and blankets were also distributed “because it is cold in the evening,” she said. Survivors have been sleeping on the streets, worried about the aftershocks.
“For days, an ACT member had been trying to land a plane from Belgium at Port-au-Prince airport where problems with air traffic control made landing difficult. The plane finally arrived, loaded with four portable hospitals, medical equipment and large tents for schools and administration buildings,” ACT said in a report posted on its website.
UN troops transported the cargo to Leogane; the rest of the aid is awaiting a helicopter airlift to Jacmel, which has no road access, it added. ACT dispatched medical teams to Jacmel, Leogane, Petit Goave, Carrefour and Matissant and organized play therapy for children who have been left physically and emotionally scarred by the tragedy.
“The people of Haiti are very grateful for the worldwide solidarity, and it’s certainly very much needed,” said Wilson. “It’s a country that was starting to improve in many ways. Malnutrition was dramatically down, and they had a democratically elected government. The security situation was improving, and now this has happened. It’s really a terrible tragedy.”
PWRDF said it welcomes donations for the response. Contributions can be made by calling PWRDF staff, Jennifer Brown, (416) 924-9192, ext. 320, or 1-866-308-7973. Cheques can be made payable to PWRDF—Haiti Earthquake, and mailed to PWRDF, Anglican Church of Canada, 80 Hayden St., Toronto, ON, M4Y 3G2. Donations can also be made online at the CanadaHelps website.