Responding to the Haiti earthquake has been one of the toughest challenges Oxfam has ever faced in its history of delivering aid, the international agency said today.
One week after the earthquake struck, aid is beginning to get through. However, the impact of the earthquake on Oxfam’s Haitian and international staff, the logistical challenges combined with a destroyed office and warehouse and the loss of communications have made this the one of the hardest responses the agency has ever mounted.
Oxfam lost two employees, and most of its staff have endured harrowing personal losses as a result of the quake. Most of Oxfam’s staff had their homes damaged or destroyed and are sleeping outside like the rest of the Haitian population.
Part of the Oxfam office and a key warehouse full of vital water and sanitation equipment were destroyed when the quake struck.
Oxfam Haiti Country Director Yolette Etienne said: “Many of my staff here have lost their homes, and some have had family losses. Two Oxfam members of staff were killed when the quake struck and I lost my own mother. But we are still here working. I told my staff that we have no choice, no other option but to work and to work harder since we have the privilege of still being here and we can help people to overcome their desperation. A day after the quake most of the staff were back at the office planning our response.”
Broken communication channels – no phone lines or internet – meant it was difficult for staff on the ground to communicate their needs and order vital equipment and supplies to headquarters in the first few days. Communications are beginning to improve – mobile phones are starting to work as well as the internet in some areas of Port-au-Prince.
The staff salvaged some stocks from the destroyed warehouse, but new equipment for providing clean water and sanitation is now arriving. Oxfam is using Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic as a hub for flying in supplies, which will then go by road to Port-au-Prince.
Ten tonnes of new stock has now arrived in Port-au-Prince and more is on its way. Water trucking has begun in several locations across Port-au-Prince, but operations were briefly halted because of a lack of fuel around the capital.
To donate to Oxfam’s Haiti earthquake appeal visit www.oxfam.org.au or phone 1800 088 110.
For more information please contact: Kate Thwaites on +61 407 515 559