A Coast Guard C-130 Hercules fixed-wing aircraft crew from Air Station Clearwater, conducts an overflight assessment above Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

With the number of deaths resulting from Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti estimated to be in the tens or hundreds of thousands, relief efforts are ramping up, including here, where Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief International is preparing to send more help

By chance, two containers of medical materials from Direct Relief were scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, near the epicenter of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The containers contained more than $400,000 in supplies and water purification and surgical instruments.

The supplies were being saved in case Haiti was hit with a hurricane. It wasn’t, and when hurricane season ended December 1, Direct Relief shipped the two ocean freight containers over anyway. Direct Relief has worked in the country since 1964. Since 2000, Direct Relief has provided $60 million in medical supplies and money to several clinics there the group has relationships with.

Those two containers are being quickly followed with an emergency airlift containing more than $2 million in medicines and medical supplies, expected to be shipped out Friday by FedEx, another of Direct Relief’s partners. Included in the containers are materials for trauma and wound care, broad-spectrum antibiotics and water purification products.

Brett Williams, emergency response coordinator, was in Haiti in April, and is currently trying to get back to the island to aid in recovery efforts, though currently flights are halted into the Port-au-Prince airport because ramp space is too crowded and there is no fuel. The group has been in touch with its partners in the island nation, and most of Direct Relief’s partners in Haiti’s capital sustained damage from the earthquake, though none of the facilities were knocked down. Still, it “sounds like the devastation is just terrible,” Williams said. Information continues to merely trickle out following the devastating quake.

Once Williams does arrive he will identify Direct Relief’s 15-or-so partner’s needs and send the information back to headquarters. As supplies arrive, he said, he’ll be helping make sure things get to the right places, coordinating with the United Nations and other NGOs to make sure efforts aren’t being duplicated in the chaos.

To donate to Direct Relief or to find out more about what they’re doing, visit directrelief.org.

Americans trying to locate family members can call the State Department (888) 407-4747.

Another Santa Barbara-based organization giving aid to Haiti is Fonkoze Santa Barbara, whose members have been active in the country for several years. Fonkoze Santa Barbara raised funds to build a microfinancing bank in Jean Rabel, Haiti. Visit fonkoze.org or contact, in Santa Barbara, maureenearls@yahoo.com or marybecker@cox.net.


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