SA pledges its support to Haitians

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pretoria - The South African government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector have offered their support to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, where tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation said the country's aid assistance in Haiti will be approached in three phases, including the immediate search and rescue phase in which search teams will be deployed to Haiti.

The search and rescue phase will include the deployment of medical professionals.

The second phase will entail activities such as the identification of bodies where local forensic pathologists will be sent to participate in the identification of bodies among other elements.

"The third and last phase will consist of humanitarian aid, in which government will work with non-governmental organisations such as the Gift of the Givers in order to provide humanitarian assistance where possible," said the department.

President Jacob Zuma met with the Rescue South Africa team at the Waterkloof Airforce Base before their departure to Haiti on Thursday evening, where he expressed his gratitude for what they are doing on behalf of the country.

He emphasised that the devastation requires of all South Africans to come forward and offer some kind of relief to alleviate the pain the Haitians are going through.

"The South African government, through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Department of Health have partnered with Vodacom, Netcare and Discovery in supporting the rescue team led by Rescue South Africa, a not-for-profit company which has worked with both the department and the NDMC," said Department of International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe.

On Thursday evening, a ten-member search and rescue team from the Gift of the Givers also departed for Haiti with heavy rescue equipment which will be used to help locate survivors in the rubble as well as a substantial amount of essential and emergency medicines.

The team is being led by Ahmed Bam and accompanied by a group of highly skilled professionals in disaster response, urban rescue and advanced life support.

Chairperson and founder of the organisation, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, said the first team would be supported by a second eight-member search and rescue team within the next 48 hours if the need arises.

"A third team of highly skilled trauma medical specialists including orthopaedic, trauma and maxillo facial surgeons, anaesthetists and advanced life support paramedics are next in line," Dr Sooliman said, adding that the team will also carry substantial amounts of medical supplies with them.

The organisation has donated R5 million worth of supplies including tents, blankets, water purification tablets, high energy and protein supplements, bottled water and additional medicines are on standby to fly out to Haiti.

The Gift of the Givers mission has received support from the President's Office, the Department of International Relations, the Department of Health as well as the South African Catholic Bishops Conference and the Anglican Church.

Other organisations, including the South African Red Cross Society (SARCS) and the Salvation Army have also heeded the call to assist Haiti.

The SARCS has launched a R30 million emergency appeal in support of those affected by the earthquake. The appeal will contribute to the Red Cross' global emergency appeal, which is seeking US$10 million.

The international federation has deployed a field assessment and coordination team to assess emergency and early recovery needs of the country, including the restoration of livelihoods and permanent shelter.

The team is composed of experts in logistics, emergency health, shelter, telecommunications, reporting and communication.

People who want to provide assistance in the form of aid or any other assistance to the Republic of Haiti can contact George Kilian, Head of the National Disaster Management Centre on (012) 334 0667 during office hours or alternatively to e-mail him at