In the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that devastated Haiti last week, L.A.-area relief groups are providing on-the-ground medical care and other assistance to residents of that impoverished country.
Also, several large L.A. companies pledged millions in disaster relief, as aid workers poured into the island nation since the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Jan. 12.
“It’s absolute devastation,” said Margaret Aguirre, director of global communications for Santa Monica-based International Medical Corps, speaking via satellite phone from Haiti. “We don’t even know how many people are needing care. We don’t know how many are dead.”
The International Red Cross last week estimated that as many as 50,000 people were killed in the earthquake. As many as 3 million people, meanwhile, were estimated to be in need of emergency relief.
International Medical, a small non-profit providing relief to victims of war and natural disaster, has eight people in the country, including emergency physicians, mostly providing triage and basic medical care.
Aid workers have faced severe challenges in the relief effort, including blocked roads, power outages and damaged phone lines. The widespread destruction has reduced many buildings to rubble and left hospitals unsafe.
“The infrastructure here is decimated. The hospital is too unstable for patients to be inside so all patients are being seen outside,” said Aguirre, who estimated as many as 500 people were being treated outside the damaged hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.
Meanwhile, L.A.’s largest non-profit, World Vision International, a global Christian relief organization headquartered in Monrovia, has as many as 370 staff members in Haiti, distributing first-aid kits, bottled water and other basic supplies.
The group, which has worked in the country for three decades, has mobilized workers stationed elsewhere in Haiti to move to the devastated areas around the capital.
“There are relief goods prepositioned in various locations across the country; though the challenge will be getting those supplies swiftly to those in need,” said Crystal Penner, a World Vision aid worker, in a statement.
Several of L.A.’s largest companies joined the relief effort last week.
Entertainment giant Walt Disney Co. said it will donate $100,000 to the Red Cross International Fund. And toymaker Mattel Inc. told the Business Journal that it has made several donations, including $10,000 to aid organization Save the Children and $15,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
Biotechnology behemoth Amgen Inc. said it will donate $2 million. Additionally, the company has set up a Web site for its 16,000 global employees to donate to the effort, money that it will match dollar for dollar.
“The contributions are expressions of our sincere sympathy for those directly affected by this tragedy,” said Kevin Sharer, Amgen’s chairman and chief executive, in a statement.
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