Monday, February 08, 2010

Direct Relief takes long-term view on Haiti aid effort By ERIC LINDBERG — Feb. 5, 2010

Approximately one third of the donations made to local medical aid organization Direct Relief International to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti will be used to establish long-term prosthetics and orthotics services.

Direct Relief officials said the organization is committing $1.2 million to provide assistive devices and rehabilitation to those who suffered disabling injuries during the mid-January quake.

“We know this is a long-term need, and we want to help start services that will be here five years from now for Haitians and run by Haitians,” Brett Williams, the nonprofit’s emergency preparedness and response director, said in a news release. “An additional $2 million like will be needed, which we will work on, but we think it is important to carve out resources and begin focusing on this critical area now for the long haul.”

In Haiti to oversee Direct Relief’s aid efforts, Williams said a working group has been formed with other Haitian and international organizations to collaborate on the long-term recovery process.

He has experience in dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake, having spent time in Pakistan following a severe earthquake in 2005. During that time, Williams helped the Pakistan Institute of Prosthetic and Orthotic Sciences expand its services to serve thousands of victims who needed to be fitted with prosthetics and orthotics.

Direct Relief has also continued addressing immediate medical needs in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, and recently delivered six tons of essential medical supplies to St. Damien Hospital.

An additional $18.5 million in medications and supplies will be delivered in the next few days, and will be supplemented in the coming months and years, Direct Relief officials said.

“In spite of the widely reported bottlenecks of humanitarian aid, Direct Relief’s assistance has reached the local healthcare facilities with which it is working, mainly because of pre-existing relations, specific targeting of aid to specific facilities that have requested them, and distribution channels to the facilities,” according to a news release from the nonprofit.

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