NEW YORK, New York,January 16, 2010 (ENS) – The United Nations is appealing for $562 million to help victims of the catastrophic earthquake which struck Haiti this week, as the world body scales up its assistance efforts.

The UN estimates that 10 percent of the buildings in the capital city Port-au-Prince have been destroyed, leaving 300,000 people homeless, and many are fleeing the destruction. The death toll has been estimated from 45,000 up to 500,000, but no casualty count has been confirmed.

The appeal seeks to provide resources to help 3.5 million people for the next six months. Key among the urgent needs are life saving supplies of food, clean water, medicines and shelter.

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has joined the United Nations’ humanitarian appeal. Given that nearly 50 percent of Haiti’s population is under the age of 18, UNICEF has a critical role to play and is seeking approximately $120 million for its work as part of the relief efforts.

UNICEF stresses that many children are on the streets of Port-au-Prince, hungry, thirsty and traumatized.

One of UNICEF’s key concerns is identifying and reuniting children who have been separated from their parents in the disaster, as well as finding the extended families of orphaned children.

UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Bernt Aasen, said, “The destruction in the city is unbelievable. We don’t have any indication yet of the number of people killed or injured, but we’re talking about thousands.”

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said today that over 300 UN personnel are still missing or unaccounted for, with 36 military and civilian MINUSTAH personnel, as well as one staff member with the UN World Food Programme, are confirmed to have died.

The Christopher Hotel, which housed the UN headquarters in Haiti, and other buildings hosting UN offices collapsed in the quake.

John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said a reliable number for the amount of casualties would not be available for at least days, maybe even weeks.

Many of Haiti’s public buildings, hospitals and utilities have been destroyed along with thousands of homes, displacing people into makeshift and overcrowded shelters.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said that food and medical help have started to arrive in Port-au-Prince, but on a limited scale.

OCHA is coordinating some 27 search-and-rescue teams, a top priority as many people remain trapped under rubble, while a further 10 teams are set to arrive shortly.

Efforts are underway to unload and deliver UNICEF emergency supplies and equipment that arrived in Port-au-Prince by plane early this morning. This first UNICEF shipment included water tanks, water purification tablets and rehydration salts.

Clean water and sanitation are among the most important emergency relief needs to protect against the serious health risks posed by diarrheal infections and diseases.

Two more UNICEF planes loaded with relief supplies are planned for the weekend, carrying some 70 metric tons of tents, tarpaulin, and medicine.

The UN World Food Programme is continuing with its food distributions, aiming to reach two million people affected by the quake.

The WFP refuted media reports that its warehouses in Haiti had been looted and its food stocks stolen. The food aid agency is acquiring two helicopters that it will send to the country immediately, moving nearly 90 metric tons of high-energy biscuits from El Salvador.

WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella told reporters in Geneva that the agency has received $20 million in donations so far, mostly from the United States.

Presidents Connect

President Barack Obama spoke for 30 minutes with President Rene Preval of Haiti this morning. President Obama said that the world has been devastated by the loss and suffering in Haiti, and pledged the full support of the American people for the government and people of Haiti as it relates to both the immediate recovery effort, and the long-term rebuilding effort.

President Preval said that he has been touched by the friendship of the American people, and expressed his condolences for the loss of American citizens in Haiti. He said that the needs are great, that relief is now flowing in to the people of Haiti, and noted the support that has come from both America and many other countries from the region and around the world.

President Preval said to the American people, “from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the Haitian people, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The two Presidents underscored the need to closely coordinate assistance efforts among the various parties, including the Haitian government, the United Nations, the United States and the many international partners and aid organizations on the ground.

On Thursday evening, President Obama spoke with President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, expressing his appreciation for the role the Dominican Republic has played in facilitating the evacuation of U.S. citizens and in the flow of relief teams and supplies into Haiti through the Dominican Republic.

President Fernandez conveyed his assessment of the situation in Haiti following his visit Thursday to Port-au-Prince.

Hundreds of Americans have been evacuated from Haiti, but not Victoria DeLong, a U.S. Foreign Service officer who lost her life in the earthquake.

Donations Flow in From Around the World

Australia will provide an initial A$10 million in emergency humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance, said Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. The funds will be used by the Red Cross, Australian, Caribbean and international nongovernmental organizations.

Canada will provide up to Cdn$5 million for emergency shelter, medical services, food, relief items, water and sanitation services, as well as protection.

“Our government is deeply concerned about the impact of the earthquake and we want to ensure that the immediate basic needs of the Haitian people are met quickly and effectively,” said Canadian Minister of International Cooperation Beverley Oda.

USAID Administrator Raj Shah, who took up his position just one week ago, told reporters today, “On food, we already have mobilized and have en route 600,000 humanitarian daily rations. These will be provided via the aircraft carrier as the mechanism of entry.”

“In addition, we have mobilized $48 million worth of food assistance. This will be enough food assistance to provide several months of food for the affected population of two million individuals.”

USAID is working with the UN World Food Programme and other partners to mobilize more food and to improve local milling efforts to make sure that Haiti has the food it needs now and into the near future, Shah said.

“On water, we are in the process of mobilizing 100,000 10-liter containers, collapsible containers, so that people can access potable water and we can prevent some of the challenges that will occur if that is limited, especially in the area of public health. We believe 20,000 of those will arrive today as part of the initial lift of commodities that is on its way,” he said.

“We have four major water purification systems identified, plus the water purification and production capacities of the military assets, the ships that will be there,” said Shah. “So we are confident we’ll be able to improve the situation in terms of access to potable water.”

Responding to reports of municipal water supplies being cut off in Port-Au-Prince, Pentair, Inc., a global water solutions provider, is immediately donating $200,000 to fund portable water treatment systems and related supplies to Haiti.

Working with the company’s charitable partner, Water Missions International, Pentair is providing 10 Living Water Treatment Systems, LWTS, and five chlorinators. These water systems can provide potable drinking water to 100,000 total people daily. The systems are currently being shipped and installed in coordination with WMI who have personnel on site.

Operating from ponds, lakes, or streams, each LWTS employs a multi-stage filtering system that reduces disease by removing waterborne pathogens, which can cause diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and hepatitis. Chlorinators are for use with shallow wells where the water is clear and does not require filtration, but could still be contaminated.

Assisting the Disabled to Survive With Dignity

Some of the most vulnerable survivors of the earthquake are the disabled, says Ron Nabors, CEO of Christian Blind Mission, CBM, based in Greenville, South Carolina.

“The earthquake has been especially devastating to people with disabilities,” Nabors says. “In disasters like this earthquake, persons with disability are often the first to die. For those who do survive, they most likely have their wheelchairs, canes, and artificial limbs lost or demolished. They are existing in inhumane conditions with limited support from family, church, or community.”

“They will be helpless to provide for themselves, making them highly vulnerable to the disaster’s aftermath, which includes infectious diseases and malnutrition,” Nabors said.

CBM is sending emergency relief specialists to assess needs, meet with partner agencies, and determine immediate and long-term responses. The organization is committed to meeting immediate medical needs, while rebuilding infrastructure to meet long-term needs and ensure the human rights for those with disabilities.

Before the earthquake, CBM had 50,000 clients in Port-au-Prince, but due to the magnitude of this disaster, Nabors expects that number to skyrocket. For children alone, statistics show that for every death of a child during a disaster, three are left disabled.

“Our international programs staff estimates that the number of injured children, men, and women demanding hospital services will increase 10-fold,” Nabors says.

To make a donation to CBM’s relief efforts in Haiti, call 1-800-937-2264 or visit www.cbmus.org.

Private Sector Donors Give Generously

The U.S. State Department has set up a donation service for private citizens to give to Haitian relief. They can just text Haiti, H-a-i-t-i, and dash 90999 to contribute $10, which will be charged to their cell phone. That portal has raised more than $11 million to date for the American Red Cross.

Financial services corporations are among those responding to the earthquake by contributing to Haitian relief.

The global financial services company Citigroup Inc. today announced a $2 million commitment for immediate relief and recovery efforts. Citi will give $250,000 to the American Red Cross for immediate relief and the remainder will be given to local partners for medium-term to long-term reconstruction efforts.

Citi CEO Vikram Pandit said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and the families and friends of Citi employees in Port-au-Prince. Citi has been operating in Haiti since 1971. Citi’s relief efforts will help aid organizations on the ground facilitate the preservation of life and the rebuilding of the country.”

U.S. Bank is contributing $100,000 to the American Red Cross in support of its efforts to bring food, water, medical supplies and other services to victims.

Richard Davis, chairman, president and CEO of U.S. Bancorp said, “Many people here in the United States, including U.S. Bank’s customers and employees, are concerned about the situation in Haiti, and our thoughts and support are directed to everyone impacted.”

U.S. Bank will refund fees for remittances to Haiti made by U.S. Bank retail customers from any U.S. Bank branch. The fee-free money transfers will be available now through February 28, 2010, to support relief efforts for victims of the earthquake.

The Iowa-based Principal Financial Group Foundation announced a donation of $50,000 for Haitian relief operations. The Central Iowa Chapter of the Red Cross is grateful for the partnership with Principal and hopes other corporations will also make donations.

Communications Just Got Easier

Communications companies are reaching out with donations and offers to help connect Haitians for free or reduced rates.

Sprint announced today that its philanthropic arm, the Sprint Foundation, will make a $50,000 donation to the American Red Cross International Relief Fund in support relief efforts. The Sprint Foundation will match employee contributions up to a total matched amount of $50,000, potentially increasing the Sprint Foundation’s total contribution to $100,000.

In addition, Sprint is waiving text-messaging fees for Sprint customers who send mobile donations to a number of short codes and organizations participating in the relief and recovery efforts in support of this tragedy.

Sprint mobile-phone texts sent to or from the following short codes will not be charged standard text-messaging fees and 100 percent of all the money donated through texting goes to these organizations.

The codes are:

  • Text “HAITI” to “90999” to donate $10 on behalf of the American Red Cross.
  • Text “YELE” to “501501” to donate $5 on behalf of The Yéle Haiti Foundation.
  • Text “HAITI” to “20222” to donate $10 on behalf of The William J. Clinton Foundation.
  • Text “HAITI” to “85944” to donate $10 on behalf of the Rescue Union Mission and MedCorp International.
  • Text “HAITI” to “25383” to donate $5 on behalf of the Internal Rescue Committee.

T-Mobile USA, Inc. today announced what it is doing to help. For current T-Mobile customers who are trying to connect with loved ones in Haiti during the aftermath of the country’s devastating earthquake, T-Mobile USA is enabling phone calls to Haiti without charges for international long distance through January 31, 2010, and retroactive to the earthquake on January 12, 2010.

Additionally, T-Mobile customers already in Haiti can roam on T-Mobile’s partner networks in Haiti, operated under the names Voila and Digicel, free-of-charge through the end of the month. In both cases, T-Mobile will remove these charges from customer bills.

IDT Corporation, a leading provider of international telecommunications services, is employing its global presence and wide range of calling services to help its customers contact family and friends in Haiti, and to contribute to the relief effort now underway.

“Many of the local telecommunications service providers in Haiti suffered significant damage, resulting in sporadic access for both inbound and outbound Haiti traffic,” said Yona Katz, chief operating officer of IDT Telecom.

IDT is working with its sales partner Access Haiti, a broadband provider, to set up calling stations in hotels and other central sites to allow Haitians to use the IDT VoiceLine service to reach family and friends around the world.

VoiceLine is IDT’s internet phone service. It does not depend on the local landline service, which was damaged in the earthquake.

In the United States, IDT will donate 4,000 Boss and Calypso $2 prepaid calling cards to Haitian community organizations in New York and Florida.

In order to help anyone trying to reach family and friends in Haiti, IDT has lowered rates to Haiti on its PennyTalk® prepaid international calling card to just two cents a minute for calls to mobile and landline phones. The lower rate will be in effect, at a minimum, through January 24, 2010, and may be extended to compensate for significant service disruptions.

PennyTalk service is available in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Anyone interested in activating immediate service can do so through www.pennytalk.com/haiti.

IDT will donate 100 percent of net proceeds on all calls to Haiti made with IDT Telecom’s popular Boss Revolution prepaid calling service through February 28 to the American Red Cross’ Haitian relief effort.

Companies, Their Employees and Customers Want to Help

Yum! Brands announced today that it is directing $500,000 from its World Hunger Relief global effort to provide food for earthquake victims in Haiti.

Yum! Brands’ World Hunger Relief is the world’s largest private sector hunger relief effort, spanning 110 countries, 36,000 KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and A&W Restaurants, to raise awareness, volunteerism and funds for the United Nations World Food Programme.

Brown-Forman Corporation, producer and marketer of alcoholic beverages such as Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, and Chambord, said today that is giving the American Red Cross $100,000 to assist in relief efforts after the earthquake.

The United Airlines Foundation is matching up to a total of $50,000 to the American Red Cross for donations that United customers and employees are making through its International Response Fund at united.com. In addition, Mileage Plus® members and employees are donating miles to the airline’s nonprofit relief partners as part of its Charity Miles program.

United is also working with relief agencies to air lift aid workers, food and water into stricken parts of the country.

Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, is donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross in response to the earthquake. The company will also match employee donations up to $50,000.

In addition, Walgreens is providing non-perishable food, water and medical supplies to the University of Miami Global Institute for Community Health and Development which has set up clinics and triage units on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Walmart operations around the world and the Walmart Foundation today announced a $500,000 monetary donation to Red Cross emergency relief efforts in Haiti. The company also is sending pre-packaged food kits valued at $100,000.

The Walmart Foundation also has launched a website, www.walmartstores.com/haiti through which customers and associates can make donations to nonprofits that are supporting relief efforts in Haiti.

Dollar General Corporation today announced a $100,000 donation to the International Red Cross, which has dispatched teams to help the recovery effort.

CARE, one of the world’s largest private international humanitarian organizations, turned to one of its most dedicated partners, the Sheraton Atlanta, to help support its massive Haiti relief effort.

Through March 31, the Sheraton Atlanta will donate $10 a night for every guest who stays at the hotel using one of two newly created “Haiti Relief CARE” packages – $189.99 Sunday through Wednesday and $109.99 Thursday through Saturday, plus free parking. To book, go to www.sheratonatlantahotel.com/haitirelief.

“Our staff is deeply saddened by the tragedy in Haiti, especially because it personally affects some of our associates we are doing what ever we can to assist,” said Niles Harris, general manager of the Sheraton Atlanta. The Sheraton is accepting monetary donations from all employees, guests and non-guests looking to help the victims of the earthquake. All monetary donations will be made to CARE.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.