World Vision Facing Obstacles, "Running Marathon" to Provide Relief in Haiti

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Port-au-Prince airport closure frustrating Haiti relief efforts. World Vision appealing for $25 million from its U.S. donors

January 14, 2010, Port-au-Prince - The closure of Port-au-Prince's airport today threw up yet another obstacle for relief workers serving thousands of the estimated 3 million Haitians affected by Tuesday's massive 7.0 earthquake. Leading agency World Vision warns that water, medical supplies and emergency shelter resources are critically low and that the closure will only delay life-saving supplies to the quake's survivors.

Dean Salisbury, a World Vision relief logistician reported, "Things are really getting bogged down and the ports in Haiti and subsequently the Dominican Republic are becoming bottlenecks. It looks like the US Military will be providing security and trying to get the ports open. The problem is the roads out of both the seaport and airport are all blocked. . . nothing is moving until they get the interior roads open. Fuel at the airport is a huge problem, hence the restrictions of flight by the FAA."

In the meantime, flights scheduled out of World Vision's warehouses in Denver, Colo. and Panama City are grounded.

World Vision had relief items stored in Haiti in preparation for hurricane season and began distributing these yesterday, but the medical supplies, blankets, and tents and other supplies from its Petionville office have quickly run low. World Vision teams visited more than 10 hospitals in the Port-au-Prince area, handing out gauze, bandages, syringes, latex gloves and antibiotics. One aid worker, Dr. Lesly Michaud, said that the local hospitals are not only running low on supplies, but on medical personnel as well.

"Yesterday, we visited one hospital that normally has 10 doctors working there. That day, they had one doctor treating all of the patients," he said. A trained physician himself, Dr. Michaud spent last night providing medical treatment at one local open-air hospital, but he said the demands are overwhelming. "We are doing everything we can do right now, but there is more that needs to be done."

In the meantime, while staff have found it difficult to get phone and internet connections out of the country, some of World Vision's staff were able to get messages out:

"Things are worse than they were yesterday. There are entire groups of people all over the city that are just roaming around and setting up camp anywhere they can. The main priority right now needs to be emergency shelter because they are blocking roads..."(Skype IM message from Magalie Boyer, Communications Manager, World Vision, Haiti)

"Much worse than expected. Bodies in the streets. Mass destruction, injured children. Some really bad. People receiving med treatment in the streets. Chaos. People digging out bodies all over PaP. Prayer and a lot of cash needed. (SMS message from veteran aid worker Steve Matthews, Communications Manager, World Vision's Global Rapid Response Team)

World Vision is appealing for at least $25 million in the U.S. to fund the response in Haiti. More may be necessary.

"We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of donors already," said President Rich Stearns of World Vision's United States office. "But this is a marathon, and we need people who will continue to run that race beside us."

In its race to respond and overcome the overwhelming challenges of getting relief assistance to those in need, World Vision is pursuing alternatives and using all the resources at its disposal. World Vision has more than 800 Haitian staff as well as a dozen international logistics and disaster response experts deploying to launch humanitarian programs not only in the capital city, but also in rural areas and along the border. World Vision has a large national office in the Dominican Republic and will utilize its warehouse and other resources to provide support.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tacking the causes of poverty and injustice. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press