January 13, 2010
An estimated 1.8 million residents in Haiti experienced a violent earthquake affecting densely populated areas near Port-au-Prince yesterday. Thousands are feared dead after the 7.0 magnitude quake struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince just before 5:00 p.m. Tuesday.
Various relief ministries are now evaluating the damage.
Mission of Hope (MOH), a ministry who serves the hurting and less fortunate in Haiti, is quickly organizing its "first responder" teams. Many of its staff are already providing healthcare in its medical clinic to those injured by the quake. The MOH warehouse is stocked with 1.5 million meals which will begin to be distributed immediately.
"Our staff on the ground reports that this looks really bad, but we've been here before with the hurricanes two years ago," said Brad Johnson, Mission of Hope president. "We have the infrastructure in place and prepared to serve."
The North American Mission of Hope staff and families as well as the orphanage children have been spared major calamity, though buildings and other facilities have yet to be surveyed for damage. There has been no report from most of the 150 Haitian staff or the 1,200 students.
Ruben Cenea, a seminary student and MOH staffer was in class when the earthquake hit. He says a concrete roof collapsed on at least 20 students.
"By God's grace I got out," said Cenea. "God saved me."
Cenea says while as he was trapped in the debris he watched his fellow classmates dying. He is uncertain how many other students escaped as he did.
Other ministries are anxiously waiting for news of their partners in the impoverished country.
Founders of Don De Dieu Orphelenat, an orphanage with 51 children and 9 staff in Port-au-Prince, are still waiting to hear how their ministry fared. Omaha-based Dan and Irene Jensen say they are concerned that they haven't heard from the orphanage staff.
"We can't get through to our staff," said Irene Jensen. "We are praying that they are safe. God puts us in a place where we need to depend on Him. A situation like this begins with prayer."
Smith and Katia Bordenave, directors of Don De Dieu Orphelenat, relocated the orphanage to Port-au-Prince from Gonaives following the 2007 hurricanes.
Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 8 out of 10 people living in extreme poverty. Joseph Williams, CEO of New Directions International (NDI), says the country is ill-prepared for a crisis of this magnitude.
"Like never before, the Haitian people will need the assistance of caring people," said Williams. "We are feeding 2,000 at-risk children a day there through Feed the Hunger. Our first priority is to make sure these kids are okay and to continue providing them with nutritious meals."
NDI operates an AIDS orphanage in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, on the northern hills of the Massif de la Selle. Pétionville, a wealthier part of Haiti where many multiracial Haitians and diplomats live, has reportedly sustained significant damage from the earthquake.
Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse sent a team to Haiti to help with relief efforts just before nightfall Tuesday evening. The organization dispatched a team just hours after the quake to help with water, shelter, medical care and other emergency needs.
"Most of all, these people need our prayers in the difficult hours and days to come," said Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham.
Starting on Wednesday, Samaritan's Purse is sending two flights a day for disaster assistance. An initial shipment of emergency relief items including rolls of plastic shelter material, hygiene kits, and water purification kits are being loaded onto a DC-3 cargo plane to fly to Port-au-Prince. The city's airport tower has reportedly collapsed and communications are limited, causing most airlines to cancel flights in and out of the country.
Other relief groups, including the UK-based Tearfund and Oxfam, are already on the ground working.
The tremor sparked widespread panic as it brought down buildings including the presidential palace, hotels, a hospital, and the UN headquarters in the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.
The United Nations mission has been seriously damaged. At least 100 people are believed buried in rubble of the UN headquarters building in Port-au-Prince. The head of UN mission is among the missing and at least five are now confirmed dead.
The UN stabilization force, which numbers about 9,000 troops and police, was sent in to try to bring order to the country that has been wracked by violence for years.
Thousands of people reportedly gathered in public squares late into the night Tuesday, singing hymns and weeping. Many gravely injured people sat in the streets, pleading for doctors.
The death toll is expected to climb into the thousands, but no official figure has been released so far.
Johnson says donations of cash and medical supplies are needed to support the many needs affecting those devastated by the 7.0 earthquake.
"Haiti is a difficult place to live on a good day," said Johnson. "Pray for the funds and resources to provide the needed assistance."
If you'd like to support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, consider joining some of Crosswalk.com's partners in their work: Global Aid Network (GAiN) USA, Food for the Hungry, Samaritan's Purse, and World Vision.
Russ Jones is co-publisher of the award winning Christian Press Newspaper (ChristianPress.com) and CEO of BIG Picture Media Group, Inc., a boutique media firm located in Newton, Kansas. Jones holds degrees from the University of Missouri and St. Paul School of Theology. As a former NBC TV reporter he enjoys reporting where evangelical Christian faith and news of the day intersect. He is also president of the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers. Jones is also a freelance reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network. He may be reached at [email protected].