Despite numerous obstacles, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has continued its relief efforts in Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake that left tens of thousands dead and even more homeless and without basic necessities.
“It may look to many in the rest of the world that those in need are not receiving any aid, but actually thousands here in Port-au-Prince have gotten help,” says Karel Zelenka, CRS country representative.
“It must be understood that the apocalypse occurred in a place where there was hardly any infrastructure before – hence the huge logistical challenges,” he added.
CRS, which has committed $25 million to the relief efforts and received $13 million in cash donations, is working with the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” the U.N and the international Catholic charity Caritas – of which CRS is a branch – to provide assistance to the Haitian community.
The papal aid group Cor Unum released a statement on Tuesday saying that in response to their request, CRS is coordinating the Church's relief efforts in Haiti at this stage and has established twelve security protected sites to give provisions to the victims. Cor Unum also stated that CRS is working with groups in neighboring Santo Domingo to provide further supplies and personnel. Food for 2,500 people has been brought by CRS trucks from the Dominican Republic as well as hygiene kits and plastic sheeting for shelter.
Helping unload 1,500 metric tons of food from a USAID Food for Peace ship at the heavily damaged port in Port-au-Prince has been one of the challenges faced by relief groups.
“Finding suitable distribution points is a big challenge because you have crowd control issues when a big crowd arrives,” said Donal Reilly, deputy director of the emergency response team for CRS. “When we've got so little to give compared to the needs, it's difficult, as you may not have enough for everyone.”
In spite of the difficulty of maintaining order during the arrival of supplies, CRS has helped deliver enough medical and food supplies to allow doctors to perform their first operation at St. Francois de Sales hospital since the earthquake.
In response to the need for medical attention, CRS has formed six medical teams, each consisting of a doctor and a nurse, to provide primary care to multiple sites where people have gathered for shelter.
Commenting on Catholic Relief Services' ongoing efforts, Zelenka said, “we know that the destruction of this earthquake was so vast that even if thousands have gotten help, many, many more need assistance.”
“We are all working hard to see that they get it.”