A mountaintop video posted on YouTube offers a panoramic vista of Haitian capital Port-Au-Prince moments after the category 7 earthquake struck Tuesday. Instead of the city, however, one sees only a blanket of white smoke as if a thick fog had descended upon the valley in which rests the poorest capital of the poorest city in the Western Hemisphere. A person holding the camera yells: "It's the end of the world."
In Haiti, such a comment would apply even without an earthquake. Said Tracy Reines, director of response operations for the American Red Cross (ARC) in a video the organization posted to YouTube yesterday: "People in Haiti are used to hurricanes, landslides and civil unrest. But this place doesn't get earthquakes."
The ARC and organizations like Oxfam, CARE, and World Vision, along with several corporations, are helping. The problem is getting into the country, as roads and airports are damaged or destroyed.
Coca-Cola has pledged $1 million through the Coca-Cola Foundation to the ARC for disaster-relief efforts in Haiti. The company says it is also providing bottled water and other products through its bottler in the adjacent Dominican Republic.
The Atlanta-based beverage giant has 850 employees at its bottling partner in Haiti, Brasserie de la Couronne. Coca-Cola says three company associates who were in Haiti when the earthquake struck are safe.
The General Motors Foundation has donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross relief fund to help Haiti. GM also has provided a direct web-link that its employees can use to contribute personally to the Red Cross disaster fund. The company says its 10-year-old GM Global Aid has facilitated over $15 million in donations for disaster relief worldwide.
Wireless customers of AT&T can send $10 donations to the Red Cross International Relief Fund from their mobile devices by typing the word HAITI and sending it to 90999. AT&T says all money donated will be passed on to the Red Cross.
ConAgra has donated $100,000 to the ARC. The gift is in addition to ConAgra's membership in the ARC's Annual Disaster Giving Program, a commitment of $1 million over five years, per the ARC. TD Bank is donating $100,000 to the Red Cross to support the earthquake-relief efforts. Kraft has given $25,000 to the ARC.
World Vision has launched a web campaign asking for earthquake relief donations, and Haitian R&B star Wyclef Jean is also raising money for relief through his Yele Haiti charity organization's Earthquake Fund.
Most of such news is coming to reporters via the newswires. PR Newswire says it is waiving all fees for news releases relating to aid in rescue and recovery efforts through Jan. 17. The waiver applies to U.S. organizations distributing news to the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.
Procter & Gamble is working with CARE, Population Services International and World Vision "to assess the situation and determine how much of our PUR Purifier of Water product is available in the area to be deployed and how much more we would need to ship," says a corporate spokesperson. She says the company is also working with UNICEF, Samaritan's Purse and Global Medic.
With non-emergency air transport to Haiti and the Dominican Republic on hold, carriers are starting to weigh in. JetBlue says it will waive change fees and fare differences to allow customers booked to travel to, from or through Puerto Plata, Santiago or Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Jan. 13 to voluntarily rebook their travel through Jan. 15, due to the earthquake's impact on the island.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has already released $500,000 to assist in the emergency response. Caryl Stern, president and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, said the group needs money for safe water, temporary shelter systems, hygiene kits, essential medicines, water purification tablets, portable toilets and family kits containing blankets and soap. Oxfam says it has 100 people on the ground already because of just-completed rebuilding after a hurricane. Oxfam senior press officer Ian Bray, speaking in Oxfam's own YouTube video, is blunt: "What we don't have is the money, and what we need desperately from you is money to help. The situation is desperate."