Haiti appeal finds strong support from Swiss

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey (right) helped man the phones lines on the Swiss fundraising day Keystone

More than SFr20 million ($19.2 million) was pledged on Thursday in a national fundraising day to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

This content was published on January 22, 2010 - 09:10

Another SFr4.4 million had already been pledged, making the total so far SFr25.2 million. It is one of the most successful campaigns of the fundraising Swiss Solidarity charity, led by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

Swiss Solidarity coordinator Roland Jeanneret said he was very happy at the result, with SFr1 million on average being pledged every hour.

The 120 telephone lines open for donations were practically always busy, with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and parliamentary speaker Pascale Bruderer helping answer calls.

Jeanneret said that many people on the telephones had expressed their personal shock at the situation in Haiti, adding that they wanted to contribute because they were aware that living standard in Switzerland were so good.

Between ten and 15 per cent of the money will be used for immediate aid, while between 70 and 80 per cent will be spent on reconstruction work.

Partner organisations

The appeal for Haiti was launched in conjunction with 16 partner organisations of Swiss Solidarity, including the Swiss National Red Cross Society, Swiss Interchurch Aid and Médecins sans Frontières.

The Swiss foreign ministry said on Thursday that a team from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit was already on its way to Haiti within ten hours of the devastating earthquake that struck on January 12.

Its first task was to reinforce an expert group at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Port-au-Prince.

In the meantime, the team in Haiti and the Dominican Republic has been expanded to more than 50 members.

A statement said that the team of Swiss experts currently includes 12 doctors who had performed about 60 operations in the university hospital and provided medical support for a dozen births.

Water supply

The ministry said Swiss water specialists were working on restoring the water supply. After repairs have been completed, 12 drinking-water distribution centres will provide water to 20,000 people mainly in poorer districts.

It added that the government’s humanitarian aid unit had sent two freight aircraft to the earthquake zone with goods including three months’ basic medical supplies for 20,000 people, essential surgical equipment, bandages, an emergency operating theatre, tarpaulins for emergency shelters, 31 large tents, 2,000 family kitchen sets, 8,300 water canisters, and 12 water reservoirs including pumps and distributors.

A third aircraft, a Jumbo jet, carrying about 95 tonnes of aid goods is being prepared for departure on Sunday.

The bulk of its load includes 600 family tents, further essential medicines for 40,000 people and hospital equipment.

The ministry said the emergency aid kits and tents are intended to ensure the survival of several thousand people in Port-au-Prince and in the devastated area southwest of the capital. Two large tents will be set up to house 80 children at the orphanage.

Swiss nationals

The Swiss embassy in Port-au-Prince has been able to make contact with more than 190 Swiss nationals in Haiti since the disaster hit. Of these only three were been injured.

But the embassy says it has not yet been able to contact four other Swiss nationals presumed to be in the country.

Swiss citizens wishing to leave the country are being supported by both the embassy and the foreign ministry. To date, about two dozen people have been flown out or transported out of Haiti overland. and agencies

Swiss Solidarity

The Swiss appeal day was led by Swiss Solidarity, the fundraising charity of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

The one-day nationwide appeal on Thursday was in cooperation with 16 of the charity’s partner organisations.

Online donations are welcome and Swiss Solidarity payment slips are available from the counters of post offices throughout Switzerland.

The account number is 10-15000-6 with the mention of Haiti. Donations may also be made via SMS – send a message with the Haiti amount to number 363, for example Haiti 50 to 363.

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Operational challenges

Port-au-Prince airport is small, damaged and congested and the city’s port is non-operational.

There is a shortage of warehouse space, and a lack of vehicles and fuel shortages are hindering the transport of relief supplies.

Security escorts are required to deliver relief goods, affected populations are scattered in hundreds of sites around the capital Port-au-Prince and nearby cities.

Roads and bridges are damaged, some still at risk of landslides.

Logistical bottlenecks are developing because some shipments include goods that are not in the UN humanitarian appeal.

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