Updates from Haiti

As relief forces finally get into Haiti, the organizations behind much of the effort have been in full court press mode, trying to keep the media updated about what they are doing in the shaken part of the world:

** The Jewish Federation in Montreal has raised $100,000 for the relief effort, which will be distributed to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the American Red Cross.

The federation is also partnering with the shoe conglomerate, the ALDO Groupe, which has made a significant  contribution to the federation for Haitian support and is giving a matching grant to all ALDO top employees, who make donations.

In addition, the federation’s Maimonides Society is partnering with the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal to amass a group of doctors and nurses who are prepared to travel to Haiti to work in field hospitals.

** The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee wants you to know what it is doing in Haiti right now. From their press release:

"We have been touched by the outpouring of support for the victims of the Haiti earthquake and will continue to provide the timeliest andappropriate assistance through our invaluable partners, especially in wake of the latest aftershock this morning," said JDC CEO Steven Schwager. "As we did after the 2004 Tsunami in South Asia, JDC will reserve a large portion of funds for sustainable intermediate and long-term rebuilding and reconstruction programs. By developing initiatives with both international and local partners during the recovery and development phases, we know we can powerfully impact the people of Haiti with opportunities for sustainable improvements in health, education, and employment."

JDC is currently supporting Heart to Heart International to provide immediate medical aid, equipment, and services to victims of the earthquake. On Monday, Heart to Heart’s team of doctors and nurses brought medical assistance to Leogane, an isolated community where little assistance has reached thus far. JDC is also working with theMedical Corps of the Israel Defense Forces, whose team of medical professionals is operating a field hospital in Port-au-Prince. JDC has helped equip the hospital, furnishing infant incubators for its neonatal unit and orthopedic devices that have been in great demand.

In collaboration with the Afya Foundation, JDC sent a container of mattresses and much-needed medical supplies to Partners in Health, a renowned local NGO founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, on the ground in Haiti. A second container is being sent on Friday and a third will follow. JDC is also supporting EcoWorks International which, working through local sources, will be operating a feeding program for victims. Further partnerships with local NGOs are being explored by JDC to provide emergency assistance during this initial stage of its disaster response.

JDC continues to coordinate its activities with the White House, the Department of State, USAID, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israeli relief agencies, the United Nations, and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief.

** The Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red Cross, sends this update from the field:

"The tens of hours of training and exercises we took could not prepare any member of the team for the destruction and devastation and helplessness that we are seeing, when facing the demands and hopes of the local population.  This is the moment when one is proud to be part of the response to people who are so greatly in need, even if only playing a small part," said Chaim Rafalowski, head of the five member Magen David Adom delegation now in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. "At the moment we are concentrating on medical treatment for the treatment for the injured and helping with humanitarian aid." 

He continued, "There is a shortage of drugs, beds, medical equipment and basic items such as needles, bandages and pints of blood.  Even after we had reinforced the hospital (University Hospital in Port-au-Prince) and opened up an additional area of the emergency room being manned by American and Israeli paramedics and medics, the local people are still angry with the delays in treatment and there is a fear that violence will break out against the teams." 

The MDA team is situated in a field hospital located inside the courtyard of the University Hospital, which is only partially operational. They are working in tandem with a delegation from the Norwegian Red Cross. At the request of University Hospital, the US Army has taken responsibility for security in the area and is controlling the entrances as well as carrying out armed checks throughout the compound to ensure the safety of patients and aid workers alike. Since they arrived, the teams of MDA paramedics have not rested and are dealing with the tens of wounded who come to the clinic in the field hospital.  

Most of the wounded are typified by having traumatic severed limbs which have not been treated until now.  

“We have here a medical team with surgical capabilities, but because of the lack of medical equipment which was destroyed, they are having difficulty in giving the needed medical care and it would seem that the wounded will have to wait a long time until they receive definitive surgical attention for their amputation which needs medical attention, and it is also not possible to put plaster on breakages," Rafalowski said. 

I find it interesting that the MDA inserted this line about how this experience has been good for Israel’s PR image:

The presence of Magen David Adom on the ground in Haiti, along with the IDF and other Israeli groups, has given a considerable boost to  Israel’s image. The President and Director General of the International Federation of the Red Cross, together with a high level delegation of Directors of Red Cross National Societies, visited the site of the Red Cross hospital and they praised Magen David Adom for enlisting and coming to help and the importance they see in this act.

When the MDA team first arrived in Port-au-Prince after traveling in an overland aid convoy from the Dominican Republic arrived in the capital city they were welcomed by the President of the Red Cross in Haiti and have also been warmly received by the population and other Red Cross societies on the ground.

** Israel21C, which writes PR news features for Israel sent out a number of stories today touting Israel’s contribution to the Haitian relief effort: Israel saved one of Haiti’s top tax officials, links to videos about Israel’s field hospital in, and a story that says 2,000 people have been treated in that field hospital so far. 

** The American Israeli Coalition, which says it represents some 250,000 Americans living in Israel announced that its members are justifiably "extremely proud" of the State of Israel’s overwhelming response to the Haiti earthquake disaster.

"Although a microscopically small country with a population of little more than 7 million, Israel has always been among the first to assist in world catastrophes, be it an earthquake in Mexico City or a tsunami in Asia," declared AIAC’s Executive Director Aaron Tirschwell. "This is in keeping with the Jewish imperative of ‘Tikkun Olam’ (repairing the world)." 

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