Save The Children CEO On Haiti Disaster

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Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children, talks about how the aid effort in Haiti compares to other natural disasters, such as Pakistan's earthquake in 2005. Save the Children has been on the ground in Haiti for more than 25 years. Along with other nongovernmental organizations, it's basically been providing the country's only social service network for years.


Some aid agencies complain the U.S. military is pushing aside aid flights to make room for their own flights.


And Doctors Without Borders says there is little sign of significant aid distribution.

INSKEEP: Were going to talk about this and more with Charles MacCormack. Hes head of Save the Children and has just returned from Haiti. Hes on the line.

Good morning, sir.

Mr. CHARLES MACCORMACK (Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children): Good morning, Steve.

MONTAGNE: And let me begin, it's Renee here. How well is aid being distributed, in your opinion?

Mr. MACCORMACK: Well, its picked up enormously. And its very important to set priorities. There are still thousands buried beneath the rubble. And the very first thing is to deal with that. I saw a score of search and rescue teams with specially trained dogs and a number of rescue happening. So thats very important.

INSKEEP: Although, you do have to wonder, Mr. MacCormack, about that complaint that not enough aid is getting in quickly enough. Is the aid at what we would consider a realistic level? Could it be better?

Mr. MACCORMACK: Well, it can always be better. But having been in the tsunami and Katrina and a dozen other crises, this one is certainly probably ahead of the curve.

INSKEEP: And I want to ask about some of those disasters in a minute. But I do want to stay on Haiti for just a second, because this is a country where aid agencies have been distributing help for years, as you know very well. Im curious if enough of that existing infrastructure of people and buildings and materials survived that people can now adapt it to help in a new situation?

Mr. MACCORMACK: Right. Well, let me say first that its always the local people themselves who are most important. And on the food question I was quite impressed that a good deal of food was coming in from other parts of Haiti and was available by street vendors and so on. So that was very encouraging.

In regard to your question, Save the Children had 170 full-time staff on the ground a week ago. We have several hundred community volunteers, 30 trucks, 50 motorcycles. Thats very helpful, but its only a drop in the bucket. Theres going to have to be a huge increase in the aid assistance.

MONTAGNE: Back to what Steve just spoke of, how does the scale of the challenge in Haiti compare to the earthquake in Pakistan a few years ago or the tsunami in South Asia?

Mr. MACCORMACK: I think its very similar. Katrina, tsunami, Pakistan - I saw thousands of buildings that just were completely leveled, all the government buildings, the presidential palace, completely destroyed. No electricity. It compares definitely with these other major emergencies.

MONTAGNE: Although, I mean, in Pakistan, of course, there was very little infrastructure with the earthquake, because it was out in the countryside, but how much, given Haitis previous issues with roads and communications, are you behind the curve as far trying to make things move forward?

Mr. MACCORMACK: I think, today, were moving and others are moving as well as were, if not better, in other emergencies. The problem is a real lack of well-trained Haitians. In Pakistan, in Indonesia, in Katrina, we were able to bring in Pakistani, Indonesian, American accountants, water specialists, logisticians who spoke the language and knew the culture. There just arent enough of Haitian engineers and doctors and accountants and auditors.

INSKEEP: So youve got some resources but not nearly enough. Haiti, you say, does not have nearly as many resources as some other places that have suffered terrible natural disasters in recent years. Given all that, what has your agency, Save the Children, been able to do and what do you want to do that you are not yet able to do?

Mr. MACCORMACK: Well, we have been able to literally save children, and we've found children right out of the rubble and been able to provide them with emergency nutrition. When I was there yesterday, one of our health staff had a mother and newborn who were hemorrhaging badly and he was finally able to get them into a hospital. So, on the health side we are already supporting hospitals, doctors and nurses. Were getting supplies, family kits, pots and pans, cooking materials, I hope. And we are doing child protection because thousands of children have been separated from their parents. So we are identifying them and finding safe places for them to be protected.

INSKEEP: All right, Mr. MacCormack, thanks very much.

Mr. MACCORMACK: Thank you, Steve and Renee.

INSKEEP: Charles MacCormack is president and CEO of Save The Children. He has just returned from a visit to Haiti.

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