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On CNN about our clean water, Comfort for Kids efforts

Haiti, January 25, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Courtesy of CNN  </span>
    Mercy Corps spokeswoman Cassandra Nelson explains how we're helping earthquake survivors in Haiti on CNN. Photo: Courtesy of CNN

CNN NEWSROOM
Aired January 25, 2010 - 11:00 ET

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: One of the biggest needs in Haiti right now, water. And we have been following the efforts of Mercy Corps to meet that need. And you are looking at images shot by Mercy Corps' Cassandra Nelson. She has been documenting her group's efforts since the crisis began, efforts to help families desperate for a glass of water.

Well, we keep asking Cassandra to come on back and give us an update on the progress, and she's kind enough to do it for us. And she's with us now from Port-au-Prince.

Cassandra, talk to us about -- first of all, good to see you again. Thank you for the time again, as always.

Has the water situation improved?

CASSANDRA NELSON, MERCY CORPS: Yes. The water situation is definitely improving. Water trucks are now running, and there have been water bladders that have been set up in numerous of the spontaneous camps that have formed around the city.

So, the water situation is improving. It certainly is not ideal.

Right now, the quantity of water is not so much a problem as the quality of water. Mercy Corps actually has a team out right now that's going around from water point to water point, actually testing the water that's available to make sure that it is acceptable to drink. A lot of this water here needs treatment, and that is really the next phase. Now that they have water, we have to make sure it's good water.

HARRIS: Yes. Give us an update on the filtration systems you were waiting for to arrive. Have they gotten there for you yet?

NELSON: The water filtration systems have not arrived yet. They actually -- as I understand, one is in Santa Domingo and it's on its way here. We certainly have found places where we will be putting those up and are expecting them, we're hoping, in the next 24 hours.

HARRIS: Yes. Give us an overall assessment of where things are in your efforts there in Haiti.

NELSON: Well, the aid effort, I have to say, in the last few days really has gained some serious traction and things are, I think, turning a positive corner. The situation remains absolutely dire, I think, as everyone is aware here. But the markets have opened, which has been a very good thing. People who actually do have some money can actually go out and purchase some supplies themselves, which has taken a little bit of relief off so the people that are the most needy, the people that are the poorest, who don't have money to buy food, now can be focused on. So that has definitely helped.

The banks are opening. So the situation has improved and food is getting out.

Mercy Corps has got about 15 tons of food delivered so far. We're delivering more food today and continuing with the water project. So things are improving, but a long way to go.

HARRIS: Hey, you know, a pretty dramatic rescue over the weekend. A 24-year-old man trapped for 11 days.

I'm just curious, do you hear those stories? And what kind of a positive impact does a story like that have on the spirits of your people?

NELSON: You know, it has a very positive impact. I think these are sort of the miracle stories that everyone needs right now in a time which feels incredibly hopeless. So those stories have a lot of positive impact.

At the same time, they do create sometimes a challenge in that many families are camped out in the rubble, next to their homes, in the hope that maybe someone's still alive inside. And these are very unsafe places for them to be, often.

If there's additional tremors and shakes in the evening, again, the building can continue to fall down and actually hurt people that are camped out outside. So we do encourage people to move away from the structures despite the fact that their loved ones might still be inside.

HARRIS: Hey, one more quick one here before I lose you. Tell me about this program that you've started where you're actually working with kids, young people who have been through this horrible, traumatic experience.

NELSON: Well, Mercy Corps is starting a program called Comfort for Kids. It's a program we've actually used many times. We used it after 9/11 in the U.S., and around the world in many earthquake zones and other disasters.

The idea is that we go in and we work with actually caretakers of children. So, families, teachers, people at churches, and we teach them how to identify traumatic symptoms in children and how to work with them to actually bring them forward and to make sure that they get those feelings out.

We have all sorts of activities and games to encourage children to tell their stories. We find that it's a very therapeutic way for children to cope with the disaster, actually to talk about it.

HARRIS: That is wonderful.

Cassandra, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your time. And we're going to give you a couple of days to get back to work here, and then we're going to dial you up again.

Cassandra Nelson from Mercy Corps.

Thanks for your time.