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Local charities rally for Haitians

Earthquake victims reach out for aid. Residents and organisations in the UAE are contributing their mite to help the troubled islanders. (AP)

By Aimee Geaves

Following appeals by A-list celebrities to help Haiti in the aftermath of last week's magnitude 7.0 earthquake, local charities are also encouraging the UAE to get behind the cause.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Unicef are spearheading campaigns across the region to collect funds for aid, while the UAE Red Crescent Society has also pledged to send any donations it receives to survivors of what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as "one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades".

Marc Sauvagnac, the Executive Director of MSF UAE said that although he believes a lot of the talk will turn its focus to rebuilding the capital Port-Au-Prince in the coming days, emergency treatment will continue throughout the week and funds are desperately needed.

"After the earthquake we had to move to temporary shelters where we witnessed huge numbers of wounded. So far we have treated 2,000 patients but there are constantly more people coming in. We've done some surgeries but they're in precarious conditions," he explained.

The charity has 800 staff based in Haiti – 700 are local residents, many of whom are still unaccounted for. It has so far sent 200 tonnes of aid and an inflatable hospital that can house 70 beds.

While the Red Crescent has received both monetary and gift donations, MSF has asked UAE residents to donate money, which can be given where needed.

A spokesperson for the Red Crescent told Emirates Business: "We have so far received money, clothes and blankets but will find a way to pass all items we receive on to Haiti."

The Pan American Health Organisation has put the death toll at between 50,000 and 100,000, but Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive expects the toll to exceed that.

MSF has found getting into the country difficult as aeroplanes have been diverted but aid is getting there. "As this is a highly reported crisis, people restrict donations to Haiti but we don't want to be pressured in this way. Of course, we will use it first in Haiti as this is the priority but we have projects all over the world that need help. The best way people can help is by giving money rather than gifts because we have centres that provide blankets and tents," he said.

One UAE resident, an Indian national who asked to remain anonymous, has a history of donating money to world disasters and has given Dh2,000 to MSF this week. She also helped to raise Dh10,000 for the 2004 Asian tsunami. "I often give money to MSF in such crises because they distribute it where it's needed rather than having an agenda. We spend money on such silly things on a daily basis, I wanted to do something to help other people," she told Emirates Business.

Corporates are also doing their part and encouraging staff to follow the lead of people like Sandra Bullock and Madonna who have donated $1 million (Dh3.67m) and $250,000 respectively.

The InterContinental Hotel group at Dubai Festival City has launched Jeans for a Cause 2010 in which staff will be able to wear jeans for the rest of this week in return for a Dh50 donation. Guests will also be encouraged to spare some money with the aim of raising in excess of Dh30,000.

Katerina Dixon, Director of Marketing Communications, said: "We chose jeans as they are a part of everyone's wardrobe – across cultures and ages. Guests do not expect the team to wear jeans, which arouses their curiosity and gets them to find out more about the appeal."

Anyone wishing to make a donation to MSF can log onto www.msfuae.ae


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