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Friday, January 22, 2010

First LWF Relief Convoy
Arrives in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (LWI) -- The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS) plans to scale up operations and strengthen logistics capacity in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic following the Jan. 20 arrival of the first DWS convoy with urgently needed relief supplies in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is sharing funds given to the church by members in response to the Haiti earthquake with the LWF/DWS, Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore, and Church World Service, New York. Earlier this week, the ELCA News Service reported more than $1.2 million in credit card gifts had been contributed to the ELCA for Haiti relief.

DWS Program Coordinator Rudelmar Bueno de Faria underlined the need to expand LWF/DWS response in order to address quickly and effectively the needs of the stricken population.

Reports from DWS country program staff in Haiti indicate that the Jan. 20 aftershock of magnitude 6.1 had caused further destruction. Buildings that had already been damaged collapsed completely and more people have been injured. It is still unknown, however, whether the death toll has increased as a result of the aftershock.

An ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance rapid support team has already arrived in the region and is providing assistance to partner organizations locally in assessing the extent of the damage and the support required. ACT Alliance is the world's largest alliance of churches and related humanitarian and development agencies.

The support team is led by Elsa Moreno, LWF/DWS staff member in Geneva from 2006 to mid-2009. In an interview just before leaving Denmark for Haiti, Moreno told Lutheran World Information (LWI) that in the days to come the ACT Alliance would focus on delivering as much assistance as possible to the population in Port-au-Prince, as well as around the city and in other areas devastated by the earthquake.

Some of the towns include those closest to the epicenter, Leogane and Petit Goave. According to the United Nations, 80 to 90 percent of buildings in Leogane, 19 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince, were destroyed. Petit Goave, to the west of Leogane, was also badly hit.

Moreno and DWS collaborators in Haiti said that many people had fled Port-au-Prince and returned to their places of origin, putting a great deal of pressure on local communities to host them.

"The ACT Alliance will continuously try to assess the number of people going to those areas which are away from response of other agencies. The main work will focus on water, shelter and care for children," Moreno stated.

Moreno told LWI that two important components now needed to be put together -- emergency response and long-term development. "Our response is not only focused on the immediate needs, but also to help people recover in the long-term and start the process for development," said Moreno.

A key task of the DWS country program in Haiti now will be bringing relief to people who have lost everything. DWS would aim to engage and focus attention on internally displaced persons (IDPs) given the department's expertise in camp management, indicated Bueno de Faria. International relief organizations currently estimate the number of IDPs to be as many as 600,000.

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