Oxfam teams in Haiti initiating aid delivery

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 16 Jan 2010

·         Water most immediate problem

·         Oxfam warns that picture from rural epicentre yet to emerge

Oxfam staff in Haiti are providing shovels and picks for local civil workers to clear rubble to search for trapped victims in the capital, Port-au-Prince, following Tuesday’s massive earthquake.

Oxfam Australia’s Emergencies Manager Richard Young said Oxfam is also sending up to 10 tonnes of water, sanitation, health and shelter equipment, worth around $125,000 to Haiti and has pre-positioned emergency stocks in Panama on stand-by.

“Oxfam’s plans to scale-up aid delivery are now being finalised. We have 17 humanitarian experts arriving in Haiti today to join our 100 staff already on the ground.

“Access to clean water for survivors is a key issue right now and Oxfam will be working to deliver water and sanitation to help prevent the spread of disease.

“The destruction continues to severely hamper aid efforts. Oxfam has had brief and erratic communications with members of our team in Haiti. Many have themselves had their houses destroyed and are now having to sleep in the street. Some have lost family members. One Oxfam staff was killed in the quake.

“Essential communications with the team are marginally improving and Oxfam has more communication equipment arriving today. The horrific picture of need, and the vast obstacles to getting aid to people in need, is emerging,” Mr Young said.

While efforts are focused on establishing a foothold in the wrecked capital from which to disperse aid, Oxfam has warned that the actual epicentre of the quake was in the countryside. There is no access to rural areas, so no picture yet of the disaster there.

“This is a nightmare for survivors and aid workers alike. The airport is near ruined, communications fractured and people are traumatized and in great need. We are now beginning to get aid through despite the challenges,” Mr Young said.

Oxfam understands the Haitian government is planning to set up 14 camps around the capital to give people somewhere to sleep. In this situation camps could offer the best temporary solution to get food and water and sanitation to people in need.

“This is a massive aid effort and we do need support to fund our work. Australians are giving generously to our appeal and we encourage people to visit www.oxfam.org.au or phone 1800 088 110 to donate to help our efforts,” Mr Young said.

Oxfam has spokespeople in Haiti. For more information contact Kate Thwaites on +61 407 515 559