After the earthquake hit Haiti, I began to wonder exactly what the Red Cross does immediately following a disaster. The Red Cross was founded by Henry Dunant after he witnessed suffering in an Italian battlefield in 1859. He was from Switzerland and his vision was to help to alleviate suffering caused by fighting and to ensure that soldiers on both sides received food, water, and medical care. Today, the Red Cross also helps people in times of peace and disasters.
Once a disaster occurs, the Red Cross works with government officials to begin "relief" assistance to those in need. They supply food, water, medical supplies and provide medical attention with the assistance of emergency workers. They also set up temporary shelters for people left homeless where they can sleep and eat. Food, water and medical supplies are sent to the disaster area from Red Cross organizations in Canada, US, and overseas.
So far, 50% of the donations have gone to pay for pre-packaged foods, water purification packets, and thousands of jerry cans to people can collect clean drinking water. 30% of donations have been spent on supplies such as blankets, tarps, soap, hygiene supplies, kitchen sets, and first aid supplies. 20% of donations go to logistical support such as purchasing vehicles to get relief to people, to pay for gas and other transportation costs, and to pay for the deployment of relief specialists.
In the recovery stage of a disaster, the Red Cross remains on the scene and helps people rebuild their lives. They purchase essential household items and clothing for families. The Red Cross also provides ongoing emotional support and help people reunite with loved ones. The Red Cross not only needs donations for immediate relief, but will need support for the long term as well because recovery could last for years in Haiti.
The Red Cross is still urging for our help with the Haiti disaster and I have provided links below where you can donate to the Canadian Red Cross or the American Red Cross and you can also get updates on what is happening in Haiti. Unfortunately, there have been some scams where people have been contacted by phony charities looking for donations. If you want to make a donation, it is best if you initiate the donation and pick a reputable charitable organization.
Canadian Red Cross
American Red Cross
Update On Jan 25, 2010: Just as a side note, the Hope for Haiti telethon raised 58 million dollars which set a record for the most money raised in a telethon. This just goes to show that every little bit helps and really adds up!