January 27 2010

Haiti: Distribution of food to children has started

27/01/2010 - The emergency relief effort by SOS Children's Villages is reaching more and more children. Several SOS community centres have been reactivated and new ones are being opened to provide care and basic supplies for children during the day. 28 unaccompanied children are currently receiving care directly at the SOS Children's Village in Santo, and more are coming every day.

Photo: Georg Willeit
More unaccompanied children are being admitted every day - Photo: Georg Willeit

Admission of unaccompanied children to the SOS Children's Village in Santo is up and running. Currently, there are 28 children whose situation with regard to their families is uncertain, they are being cared for directly within the village, and their number is increasing every day. Most are severely traumatised and need psychological attention. On inspecting the available space inside SOS Children's Villages' facilities together with UNICEF and the head of the Haitian welfare services, a decision was reached yesterday to limit the capacity for providing temporary care for unaccompanied children on SOS grounds to 200 - 300 children for the time being. UNICEF has pledged to support SOS Children's Villages with the provision of tents and food, and has even agreed to install large kitchen facilities. Two classrooms at the SOS School have been made available to the staff of the Haitian welfare services as office space, since their office building was destroyed in the earthquake. So far, there has not been any official notification concerning the schools, many of which were destroyed, or when and how classes might start again.

Photo: Georg Willeit
Distributing food to some 300 people - Photo: Georg Willeit

In a joint effort with the Haitian co-workers of the SOS family strengthening programmes, the international relief teams of SOS Children's Villages have been identifying more and more communities that are in urgent need of help. In cooperation with the heads of some of these communities, a total of more than 300 children received food at four different locations yesterday. As Georg Willeit of the international team of SOS helpers reports, "this is the start of a string of new family strengthening programmes - the demand is just so enormous! Today, we will probably provide some 500 more children with food rations. The heads of the communities have done a great job of preparing for the arrival of our co-workers: People were already waiting for us when we arrived, but there were never any security problems. The children were so happy once they had eaten, they even got up to dance and sing".

Photo: Georg Willeit
After a warm meal, the relief of the children was obvious - Photo: Georg Willeit

To support families who have been sorely affected by the disaster, more community centres will be opening in addition to the 16 that SOS Children's Villages had been running together with the families before to the earthquake and which have now been reopened. SOS Children's Villages plans to reach up to 7,000 children and adults via these centres over the coming days and weeks. The focus at present is on providing families with food supplies, hygiene products and kitchen appliances, in addition to making child care available to parents and relatives who need to go rebuild their homes, not to mention their lives. The provision of building materials to this purpose will follow.

At the same time as running these programmes, SOS Children's Villages must also make sure that families in the SOS Children's Village itself, as well as SOS co-workers and their families have all they need. They, too, received food parcels yesterday.

Photo: Georg Willeit

Planning of distribution of food to thousands more is under way, but crucial logistical issues still need to be addressed, such as the questions of which communities are accessible to SOS Children's Villages, where to store supplies and how to handle the influx of supplies from the Dominican Republic.

There will also be a joining of forces between SOS Children's Villages and the Dominican Red Cross, which has agreed to erect a tent for two doctors giving basic medical treatment on the grounds of the SOS Children's Village in Santo. A further tent from the Red Cross will provide space for 50 patients. The Red Cross has also offered food supplies, hygiene products and drinking water, as well as their technical support in repairing the water pump of the village, which has been without running water for two days.

Photo: Georg Willeit
Thousands more will receive food parcels from SOS Children's Villages co-workers - Photo: Georg Willeit