As they have so many times in the past, associations and nonprofits around the world are moving rapidly to help the hard-hit communities in and near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, after a severe earthquake measuring 7.0 quake apparently flattened much of the area late January 12.
With communications impaired, electricity out, and roads blocked by fallen debris from collapsed buildings and homes, organizations were struggling both to track down local staff and members, and to assess how best to assist the densely populated, impoverished region that appears devastated.
Hereâ€™s a round-up of some association and nonprofit efforts and news underway:
Within hours of the quake, local Haitian teams of the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders/MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res were reporting that damage to their Port-au-Prince medical center and other facilities is â€œsignificantâ€ as are injuries to staff, patients, and incoming residents. Additional staff are being deployed immediately.
World Vision International, a nonprofit that helps the poor, said on its Web site that staff in Haiti are trying to assess the damage and configure a response plan, but some workers are struggling just to leave their building because of aftershocks and damage that continue to send walls and building materials into the streets.
The American Red Cross, World Vision International, Oxfam, numerous faith-based relief services, and myriad other disaster relief charities have already set up emergency fundsâ€”many of them linked to mobile phone text giving--and e-mailed urgent donation appeals to millions of supporters.
Save the Childrenâ€™s Ian Rodgers, who was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, quickly became the eyes and ears for many media around the globe stymied by the lack of working communication technology and lack of access to the area.
Social media is again playing a riveting role in revealing the extent of the disaster, as well as the types of real-time decision-making occuring onsite and in offices far afield by nonprofit staff and government officials. Twitter updates from charities, federal and international agencies, and others have been running throughout the night as news and photos have slowly leaked out. While no association-uploaded videos related to humanitarian efforts is on YouTube yet, several groups expressed hope they would soon have footage or videotaped interviews to post shortly.
Many professional and trade associations have created global disaster relief funds in the past 10 years and are likely to tap them now, saying they want first to see what primary needs emerge.
Expressing fears about safety, shifting needs, and inadequate information from the hit region, none of the aid charities are accepting outside volunteers at the moment while the groups try to get their own trained staff onsite. Indeed, some are trying to get staff and members out of the Port-au-Prince area while aftershocks remain so strong.