January 14 2010

SOS Children's Villages Haiti: Preparations for immediate help begun

14/01/2010 - Communication lines to Haiti are still down, but it has been confirmed that at least among the children and staff of the two SOS Children's Villages, there have been no casualties. Preparations for immediate help have begun.

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in the early evening of 12 January, it is still near impossible to obtain any information on the current situation on the ground. However, a brief conversation via satellite phone with the director of SOS Children's Villages Haiti has confirmed that the staff and SOS families in the SOS Children's Village Santo are uninjured and its infrastructure has no major damages (except the perimetrical wall), including the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School.

There is, unfortunately, still no word from other SOS Children's Villages programmes (schools, family strengthening programmes, social centres), and there is reason to believe that damages have been severe, since neighbourhoods where SOS Children's Villages is active have in some cases been completely destroyed. In addition, one of the SOS Youth Facilities in Santo (a rented flat in the city) was destroyed and two youths were injured. They have received medical assistance and are now out of danger.

Since the office of SOS Children's Villages Haiti and the communication lines have been severely damaged and staff members have been personally affected by the earthquake, coordination of relief efforts will be handled from the Dominican Republic, where SOS Children's Villages is also well established and where the team has already started to purchase medical supplies, basic food supplies and other essentials. Three co-workers of SOS Children's Villages Peru with ample experience in emergency projects, especially earthquakes, will support the design and implementation of the emergency effort.

In a first attempt to assess the situation at the SOS Children's Village Santo, the SOS facility closest to the epicentre, the director of SOS Children's Villages Dominican Republic has been flown there by helicopter to establish to what extent the village might become a base of help not only for children and families already being supported by SOS Children's Villages programmes, but also for the community in the immediate vicinity of the village, as soon as this is possible. Santo seems the appropriate place to do this, given its geographical vicinity to both the Dominican Republic and the airport.

Such help might include:

• Temporary shelter for unaccompanied children in our two villages or other locations,
• Safe areas for mothers with children,
• Food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials,
• Psychological support,
• Reunification programmes for families and children,
• and additional activities according to needs

In any case, it is becoming more and more evident that a full recovery from this catastrophe will be possible only with continuing support over the months and years to come.