Friday's star-studded Hope for Haiti Now telethon raised $58 million in individual donations for seven organizations working to help the survivors of the January 12 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and its environs, CNN reports.
Benefiting the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the American Red Cross, Oxfam America, UNICEF, the UN World Food Program, Partners in Health, and Yéle Haiti, the telethon also raised a substantial amount in corporate donations and will continue to collect individual donations made via phone, the Internet, text message, and traditional mail over the next six months. In addition, the proceeds from the sale on iTunes of a recording featuring telethon performances by Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder will be shared by the organizations. On Saturday, the recording was the top-selling iTunes album in eighteen countries.
Throughout the weekend, telethon beneficiaries and other international aid agencies continued to ramp up their efforts in Haiti, where an ill-equipped airport, damaged port facilities, and other logistical difficulties slowed the delivery of food and supplies to the disaster zone for the better part of a week and a half. On Thursday, the Red Cross announced that it had shipped more than a hundred tons of food and supplies to Haiti and soon would be delivering clean drinking water by truck to 200,000 people a day. And on Friday, the World Food Program said it distributed about two million meals to hungry residents of Port-au-Prince — a significant increase from just a day before, when the agency reported distributing 1.2 million meals.
On the health front, UNICEF is working with the Haitian Ministry of Health on an immunization drive to protect 600,000 children under the age of five from measles, tetanus, and diphtheria, while Partners in Health — a relatively small, Boston-based organization with ten hospitals and deep roots in Haiti — has rapidly expanded its operations in the impoverished country, thanks in part to the $25 million it raised in the first seven days after the earthquake struck. Meanwhile, Yéle Haiti, the grassroots organization founded by Haitian American musician Wyclef Jean, announced over the weekend that it will make changes to how it accounts for donations after questions were raised about its previous spending practices and belated filing of tax documents with the IRS.
Individuals, corporations, and foundations continue to contribute to relief efforts at a near-record pace. On Monday, the New York City-based Starr International Foundation announced grants totaling $1 million to Partners in Health and the International Rescue Committee, while the California Community Foundation announced a $2 million grant to the Red Cross, the International Medical Corps, the Salvation Army, and other groups.
Still, the outpouring of charitable donations and international aid has done little to brighten the outlook for Haiti, with many experts quick to point out that in order for the impoverished country to achieve even a modest recovery, such assistance will be needed for months — if not years — to come. "The health system [before the quake] was relatively weak, and the immunization coverage was not optimal," said UNICEF chief of maternal, newborn, and child health Renee Van de Weerdt. "The rates of malnutrition were also relatively high. We know that we have to deal with a very vulnerable population."