Aid from Catholic Relief Services reaching Haitians

Agency Increases Commitment to $25 Million

From Catholic Relief Services, January 18, 2010
by Robyn Fieser, rfieser@crs.org.gt, (410) 624-8564

Lifesaving supplies from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are reaching desperate survivors in quake-shattered Port-au-Prince, Haiti. CRS is distributing food and water from its warehouses in the Haitian capital and the city of Les Cayes. Additional aid is on its way from CRS' supplies in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

CRS has increased its original funding commitment and is planning an emergency response with an expectation of raising $25 million from its generous supporters. To date, CRS has already received more than $6 million in cash and commitments, including a $1-million disaster response donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a $225,000 gift from the New York Yankees baseball team.

"Our staff on the ground say the needs are beyond belief," says Ken Hackett, President of CRS. "This money will help us go even further to reach people who are suffering."

CRS was able to respond immediately thanks to pre-positioned supplies in its Port-au-Prince warehouse. "We are fortunate to have had water in our warehouse," says Karel Zelenka, Country Representative for CRS Haiti. "We also trucked in family food kits from Les Cayes."

CRS has a staff of 313 on the ground, with more personnel arriving daily. CRS Haiti's headquarters building was damaged but did not collapse. Until its structural integrity is assured, aid workers are working and sleeping outside in tents or cars.

Additional food will arrive soon. "Fifteen hundred metric tons of wheat and oil will arrive in port shortly," says Schuyler Thorup, Regional Director for CRS Latin America. "We will distribute it immediately."

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, CRS is preparing food packages to feed 50,000 people. The packages are five-gallon buckets loaded with juice, sardines, sausage, peanut butter, nuts, granola bars, canned fruit, black beans and saltine crackers. CRS is also readying water storage containers, water purification tablets, hygiene kits, cookware and plastic sheeting in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

CRS has been working in Haiti for 55 years, often responding to disasters such as the hurricanes that hit the country in 2008. The agency has an extensive network of aid partners in the country, including Catholic schools, hospitals and health centers.

"There's been an outpouring of support from Catholics and others of good will in the United States," says CRS Executive Vice President Michael Wiest. "We're so grateful for the generosity of our donors, especially because the massive destruction caused by the quake will require a long-term recovery process."