Costa Rica: Red Cross Red Crescent supports earthquake survivors

Published: 13 January 2009 0:00 CET

The Costa Rica Red Cross has sent a team of trained volunteers from its psychosocial support unit to support those affected by an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale.

Many of those living in areas hit hardest by the quake, which happened on 8 January, are still coming to terms with the event and are expressing stress, fear and feelings of insecurity. Rapid action from the psychosocial unit can prevent this type of stress from turning later into depression, sadness, anxiety, sleeping difficulties or social isolation.

“It is very important that earthquake survivors take control of their actions, focusing also on other matters not related to this event. That will help them emotionally,” explains Lindsay Martinez, one of the specialists deployed in the field by Costa Rica Red Cross.

Special attention for children

Children receive special attention from the unit’s volunteers, and youth specialists have also been deployed to organize recreational activities and help young people forget about the trauma they just went through.

At least 18 people died during the quake, and more people are still missing. According to Costa Rica Red Cross - which mobilized about 400 volunteers to support the rapid response efforts - more than 2,300 people have been affected. The areas around Sarapiqui, Santa Barbara and Poas were the hardest hit with damage reported to some houses and buildings.

Costa Rica Red Cross has additionally deployed more than 50 specialized rescue teams. Access to some areas has been complicated because of destruction to roads and bridges.

First assessments

“Volunteers and staff are mobilized to provide fast and efficient support to all victims,” says Miguel Carmona Jimenez, president of the Costa Rica Red Cross Society.

Red Cross Red Crescent intervention teams have carried out damage assessments, search and rescue as well as evacuation activities, and are managing shelters. The first identified needs are non-perishable food items, hygiene and kitchen items, as well as blankets and mattresses.

The Costa Rica Red Cross has been able to save many lives thanks to the quick rescue action taken by trained volunteers and staff using more than 40 vehicles. They will remain on high alert over the coming days in case of aftershocks.

International support

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is in constant communication with the Costa Rica Red Cross in order to provide additional support. An operations coordinator from the IFRC’s Pan American Disaster Response Unit has arrived in Costa Rica.

The IFRC has released 50,000 Swiss francs (44,700 US dollars/37,300 euro) from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to help cover immediate needs.