A hillside community shows the magnitude of the destruction when an earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12, 2010. Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital and largest city, was particularly hard hit. (International Mission Board photo)
By Larry Thomas
KNCSB Director of Disaster Relief
Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti and our Southern Baptist efforts to relieve the suffering there. Health issues in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake are creating great concern.
Don’t forget that by helping victims we witness the love of God to those in need. If you haven’t made the decision to support the Buckets of Hope project, I encourage you to do so. Short of going to Haiti, it is perhaps the best single action that we Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptists can take together now to make a long-term difference in the lives of earthquake victims.
The general concept behind this effort is for:
Forty-seven percent of Haiti’s population of more than 9 million is under age 18. The Caribbean country has the Western Hemisphere’s highest birth rate and its highest child and maternal mortality rates. Haiti also has the hemisphere’s highest malnutrition rate—with some 17,500 children under age 5 acutely malnourished. This was the situation before the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.
The second stage of Haiti’s medical emergency has begun, with diarrheal illnesses, acute respiratory infections and malnutrition beginning to claim lives by the dozen. Nearly a month after the quake, respiratory infections, malnutrition, diarrhea from waterborne diseases and a lack of appropriate food for young children may be the biggest killers.
Haiti’s government raised the death toll for the Jan. 12 earthquake to 230,000—the same death toll as the 2004 Asian tsunami. And while the half-million people jammed into germ-breeding makeshift camps have so far been spared a contagious-disease outbreak, health officials fear epidemics. They are rushing to vaccinate 530,000 children against measles, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The issue to focus on is not when will the epidemics begin, but how many lives will they take before it can be stopped.
The number of deaths not directly caused by the quake is unclear. Officials are only now beginning to survey the more than 200 international medical aid groups working out of 91 hospitals - most of them just collections of tents - to compile the data.
Some 300,000 people are injured. At Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital, patients continue arriving with infections in wounds they can’t keep clean because the street is their home. The number of amputees, estimated at 2,000 to 4,000 continues to rise. Violence bred from food shortages and inadequate security is also producing casualties. Physicians report several gunshot wounds a day at General Hospital.
Acute child malnutrition is only expected to worsen. And before the summer harvests come the rains of April followed closely behind by the infamous tropical storms and hurricanes of the Caribbean to worsen an already desperate situation. Shanty camp residents subsisting on plantains from an adjacent grove said two adults and five children died of starvation there last week. A clinic doctor reported that she was seeing a lot of infants with diarrhea. Efforts continue to focus on lifesaving services and needed long-term care is still a “hope” to be realized.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has at least four medical teams on site in or near the temporary shanty towns to provide medical treatment.
The international airport at Port-au-Prince is operational, however is not yet allowing commercial passenger flights in. Missionaries of the International Mission Board assist our deploying teams as they make their way via the Dominican Republic into Haiti. Florida Baptist Convention personnel provide a great deal of support for deploying teams. Arkansas Baptists also have an operational compound providing support. As the clean up continues, travel is improving. Logistics, security, and transportation issues continue to be a problem. Water purification teams, housing inspection/assessment and chaplains teams are in line to deploy as logistic support capability grows.
Continue to refer to the KNCSB Web site for Haiti earthquake relief update information. Thanks again for your prayers and financial support.