Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Help Haiti

I've been talking a lot the past few days, with anyone who will listen, about how to help in Haiti. In my city, and probably yours, too, various organizations, radio stations, churches and synagogues are asking for donations to send to Haiti. Everyone's heart is in the right place, but if you want to help the people of Haiti and the relief efforts there, it is best to send money. That is the message from the Red Cross and President Bill Clinton, who is the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti. So if you can, donate money. The easiest way to do this is to text "haiti" to 90999 on your cell phone, which will donate $10 to Red Cross.

I'm also noticing that people are asking for donations of infant formula to be sent to Haiti. Infant formula is not appropriate in emergency situations. Please tell your friends and family members not to send infant formula to Haiti. Artificial feeding increases the risk of infection, disease and death during an emergency. Donations of infant formula to areas hit by natural disasters has also led to decreased breastfeeding in the past. Mothers who are perfectly capable of breastfeeding will often stop and begin using formula when it is provided during emergencies. According to a study by UNICEF , 42% of infants were fed formula after the earthquake in Indonesia, compared to 27% pre-quake. People who send infant formula to Haiti are well-meaning, but misguided. Please explain to them that this is a dangerous practice. For more information on breastfeeding during emergencies, please see this World Health Organization podcast or the International Lactation Consultant Association's position paper on this issue. 

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