Czechs raise millions in Haiti aid, though Czech mission not imminent

Photo: CTK

The international aid effort is gathering pace for the victims of the Haitian earthquake, and the Czech Republic is no exception; the government has earmarked over one million dollars and private collections launched by the country’s NGOs have also raised substantial amounts. But there’s been criticism too, with some NGOs expressing frustration at being unable to help.

The plight of the Haitian earthquake victims has stirred consciences all over the world, with governments and NGOs rushing to help. On Monday the Czech government announced it was earmarking 20 million crowns – that’s 1.1 million U.S. dollars – towards the aid effort. Jan Kohout, Czech Foreign Minister:

Photo: CTK
“This money will be used to finance work being carried out by various UN agencies, and will also be directed – as we’ve been advised – to providing food aid. At the same time some of this financial aid will go to our NGOs working in Haiti.”

Defence Minister Martin Barták told reporters his ministry was putting together special teams of relief workers ready to fly to Haiti as soon as they receive the order:

“The Ministry of Defence is currently putting together mobile teams comprising medical staff and chemical experts who would concentrate on restoring sources of drinking water that have been contaminated. We’ve also offered a team of 30 military police who would help in maintaining order.”

But so far no plane with Czech markings has landed at Port-au-Prince’s airport; Czech officials say they don’t have the resources to deliver aid half way around the world and anyway for the meantime the congested airport can’t handle any more flights. That’s led to anger from some local NGOs who say they have volunteers and equipment ready to help but no way of getting them to Haiti.

Šimon Pánek
The country’s best-known humanitarian aid organisation, People in Need, has already raised almost one million dollars from public donations, but has decided - for the moment at least - not to send its own mission. The organisation’s director Šimon Pánek explained why:

“Well we decided not to go in the time of emergency and open our own mission, and that’s mainly because People in Need is a member of Alliance 2015, a group of seven high-quality professional NGOs, six of them from western Europe and People in Need from the new member states. Four of them are running long-term development projects in Haiti with 25 expatriates and 200 national staff. We do have enough capacity in place to implement aid projects funded by People in Need, and so there’s no sense in opening a fifth mission of our own, especially now, in the emergency phase. The main problem is not money, it’s not people traveling from outside - for the moment the main problem is coordination and logistics.”

Photo: CTK
People in Need has sent one of its coordinators to Port-au-Prince, who describes the scenes of destruction in an article for today’s Lidové Noviny newspaper. In a separate article the newspaper takes something of an accusatory tone, pointing out that neighbouring Poland was able to send one of its aircraft with Polish rescuers to Haiti, and small countries such as Belgium, Israel and Ireland also managed to get their people into Port-au-Prince, at a time when the Czech authorities were saying it was impossible.