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How Aid Efforts Are Going In Haiti After Earthquake

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

In Haiti, hundreds of people are dead after an earthquake yesterday that's been measured at magnitude 7.2. That's larger than the earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010, and the country still hasn't recovered from it. This is all on top of political instability following the recent assassination of the Haitian president and a spike in gang violence.

Margarett Lubin is Haiti's country representative for the aid organization CORE. She is in Port-au-Prince, and she joins us now. Welcome.

MARGARETT LUBIN: Thank you.

KEITH: What can you tell us about the damage from this earthquake? What are the reports you're getting?

LUBIN: Well, the - I can tell you that the full extent of the damage and casualties is not yet known. As of today, a few minutes ago, I learned that the death toll has doubled. That's about 720-plus now.

You know, it's devastation throughout the region, disruptions. You know, hospitals are flattened. You have churches that are flattened. A lot of people are homeless. And hospitals are totally overwhelmed. We are in need of doctors, of medicines. The aid needs to get to the remote areas. Those roads are blocked. So there's a lot, a lot, a lot to do.

You know, as you may know, J/P HRO opened in Haiti in 2010 after the 2010 earthquake. And so we have lots of experience in work in Haiti, which enables us to connect with the community, to bring the aid to them. And so we have teams on the ground, you know, providing us with information. And everything that we're hearing is we need to work and work fast...

KEITH: Yeah.

LUBIN: ...Because we are operating in an environment where there is this hurricane coming, and then you also have the pandemic...

KEITH: Right.

LUBIN: ...In action. Yeah, yeah.

KEITH: I mean, it's a crisis on top of a crisis on top of a crisis.

LUBIN: Exactly. And so - and you need to be able to manage all of them at the same time. So we have put multiple teams on the ground to try to address this and get the help, the need - to address the need of the people - the emergency needs of the people as much as possible. We have a mobile team with doctors helping the hospitals, the makeshift hospitals to really care for the wounded and get them the help that they need.

KEITH: Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he would not ask for international aid until damages are fully known. In your view, what should the role of the international community be in this case?

LUBIN: Well, I think the international community is on the ground trying to assess the situation as fast as possible, everyone doing their part. But also, I think the needs, really, in Haiti is the funding. We need the funding on the ground. It's essential so that we can respond to the needs in the midst of all these emergencies that we just described so that we can really make an impact on the ground and get people out of suffering.

KEITH: There are reports that some - there's been an escalation in gang violence, that it has blocked routes to the south, where aid will need to go to reach devastated areas. How are you going to navigate that?

LUBIN: Well, we have. Actually, I have four teams. I have four teams on the ground. And it's two medical teams and four assessment and - four assessment team and two medical teams on the ground. We were able to take a back road to the south.

What we are doing as well is getting - we have gotten heavy equipment in the area so that we can open the roads that are blocked between the (unintelligible) Department and the south so that the aid - not just our aid, but the aid in general - can get to the people. You know, in Haiti, with the experience that we have as CORE, there are ways to get around those challenges. And you just have to do that because the priority is helping the people in need. The relief effort has to go through.

KEITH: Do you have any sense of whether this time will be less severe than the last gigantic earthquake that hit Haiti or is it just too early to know?

LUBIN: I think it's very much early. Again, as I said, the full extent of the damage is not known. And we have - we are in the midst of a pandemic.

KEITH: Yeah. Margarett Lubin is Haiti's country representative for CORE. Thank you so much for being with us.

LUBIN: Sure. You're welcome. Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.