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 CNS Story:

HAITI-CARITAS Jan-14-2010 (420 words) xxxi

Caritas aid reaches Haiti quake survivors

By Joeun Lee
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organization for Catholic charities, quickly delivered aid to the survivors of the Haiti earthquake but was in urgent need of additional relief materials.

The Caritas staff in Haiti visited devastated areas of the capital Port-au-Prince Jan. 13 to determine what the immediate needs were. At least 60 tents were distributed to families, and first aid was given to survivors in clinics and hospitals, Caritas said in a statement from its Vatican headquarters.

Joseph Jonides Villarson, head of emergencies for Caritas Haiti, said it was the worst disaster Haiti has experienced.

"Many people have been killed in Port-au-Prince. Their bodies are everywhere on the streets of the capital. People are still under the debris. The hospitals are overwhelmed with the dead and injured. The risk of disease is great," he said.

Villarson said the streets were filled with people who do not know where to go, and there was a real possibility of violence and more looting.

"There is very little visible presence of the police. Caritas Haiti President Bishop Pierre Andre Dumas of Anse-a-Veau et Miragoane has appealed on the radio for calm and solidarity," he said.

"The immediate needs are for tents for provisional shelters, covers, clothing, clean water, food, psychological support, first-aid materials, drugs, flashlights and batteries. Caritas has no supplies left," Villarson said.

Throughout Haiti, Caritas and its partners have warehouses, 200 medical centers and a community network of volunteers who have been mobilized to deliver aid, he said. Meanwhile, Caritas Internationalis was sending a team of international staff to support operations to provide food, shelter, sanitation, communications and logistics.

The president of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, said Caritas was helped by the fact that it had extensive experience in Haiti delivering shelter, food, health care and clean water.

"We urge the international community to support aid efforts. Haiti is a very poor country that needs our assistance. We have long warned that the lack of development in Haiti, its dire poverty and its decaying infrastructure, leaves it vulnerable to disasters. We are facing such an emergency now and we must respond quickly to save lives," the cardinal said.

"One of the poorest nations in our world will be the focus of media attention and the outpouring of humanitarian assistance as a result of this natural disaster. May this bring with it lasting solutions and commitment to alleviate the misery of Haitians and the infrastructural poverty of this beleaguered nation," the cardinal said.


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