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Up to 1,000 may have died in Haiti — here’s how to help

Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

As many as 1,000 people may have died in the Caribbean’s third-largest country since Hurricane Matthew struck two weeks ago, and more than 1 million are in need of food, clean water, clothing and shelter.

It’s easy to forget their suffering when our news is dominated by a wild and crazy presidential election, but our brains and hearts can process more than one event at a time, even if cable news can’t seem to.

I reached out to Elizabeth McCostlin, managing director of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Midwest region, to find out how families in the United States can help.

“Preventing water-borne disease is one of the highest priorities for UNICEF and our partners right now,” McCostlin said. “That can be a huge risk for children and others living in the affected areas, and that’s a key part of our response.”

The United Nations has called for nearly $120 million in aid for Haiti. UNICEF is collecting money for sanitation and hygiene supplies, health and nutrition aid, and early childhood development packages. You can make a tax-deductible donation at unicefusa.org/Matthew or text RELIEF to 864233 (UNICEF) to donate $10.

You can also give Halloween a humanitarian edge this year. Remember those trick-or-treat for UNICEF boxes? They’re still around.

UNICEF has a page full of videos and other resources to help kids get their heads around what life is like in other parts of the world, and how they can turn Halloween into an opportunity to help. The videos show kids receiving aid in Rwanda, Guatemala and Haiti.

“I have a son who’s almost 4, and he learns so much by way of video,” McCostlin said. “This is helping him understand that he can be the change for other kids.”

UNICEF’s trick-or-treat page lets you order trick-or-treat boxes to be delivered to your home or school. You can also print out a label to affix to your own bag or box. Money collected in the boxes helps kids in 190 different countries and territories by funding immunizations, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation.

UNICEF also has an Inspired Gifts site that lets you buy a lifesaving gift for a child in need and dedicate it to a friend or loved one.

For $80.78, you can purchase a “superhero pack” of measles, tetanus and polio vaccines to be sent to children in need, plus a vaccine carrier that ensures the vaccine safely reaches a child in need and 10 mosquito nets to protect against disease-carrying insects. For $216.97, you can send 20 collapsible plastic water containers that hold 10 liters of drinking water each, 500 water purifying tablets to prevent the outbreak of water-borne illnesses (cholera and typhoid, for example) and a few bars of soap. Other gifts run as little as $20.

Helping others helps us, too: We feel less powerless against the churn and drama and pain of life when we’re actually doing something to alleviate it. And I think that’s a wonderful lesson to pass along to our kids.

Haiti is a good place to start.