THE latest devastating earthquake in Haiti has hit children particularly hard, and half a million are now at risk, report aid agencies, which now face having to rebuild their projects as well as provide emergency relief.
The 14 August earthquake (News, 20 August) registered a magnitude of 7.2 and was followed by Tropical Storm Grace. At the time of writing, 2207 people have died, 12,268 are injured, and 344 are still missing.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, was still rebuilding after the 2010 earthquake. Chronic instability, dictatorships, and natural disasters have all contributed to a situation in which 60 per cent of the population of 11 million live below the poverty line, and one child in 15 dies before the age of five. Under-15s make up more than one third of the population.
Compassion UK, a Christian international child-development charity with 354 frontline church partners, reported this week that many children in the affected regions had become separated from their caregivers, putting them at significant risk from gang activity and kidnappers. It is setting up child-friendly spaces where unaccompanied minors can seek refuge, and also distributing 18,000 food and hygiene kits to families in desperate need.
The chief executive of Compassion UK, Justin Dowds, said that both staff and funds were being mobilised to support people hit by the earthquake. “So far, 46 of our child-development projects have been impacted, which serve more than 17,000 children,” he said.
“Many projects will need to be completely rebuilt to withstand any potential future earthquakes and hurricanes. We’re hearing reports that 15 projects have been destroyed, with another 15 damaged beyond repair. Initial estimates for the cost of emergency response and rebuilding is in excess of US$20 million.
“The faster we can get support to the country, the more we can do in the next few days and weeks. Sadly, the recovery process may take years, but we are committed to reopening projects to serve children in the area as soon as we can. We are asking our supporters to donate to our Haiti disaster appeal. And we are asking people to pray.
“Compassion’s unique response is to strengthen and rebuild the most effective support system on the island: the local church. Historically, the church has been Haiti’s lifeline, support system, and refuge — even before this most recent earthquake hit.”
World Vision has shipped in 6000 emergency food and hygiene kits, and is gearing up to help 240,000 people — 60,000 of them children — get access to clean water, food supplies, and tents. Child protection for the vulnerable is also a priority.
International Health Partners report that Haiti’s hospitals have been overwhelmed with thousands of injured residents, and many health-care facilities are damaged or destroyed. “We have one shipment of essential medicines already in transit, containing 28,800 treatments, and prepositioned medical supplies ready to go in our first wave of response,” the charity’s spokeswoman, Hazel Brearley, said.
“In one of the worst affected areas, doctors are having to treat injured patients on hospital stretchers, underneath trees, and on mattresses by the side of the road. We’re hoping to bring 210,970 treatments to Haiti, which will enable an estimated 70,000 people to receive the medical care they need. In addition, we will provide 1.32 million face masks for use by health professionals.”
Marc Antoine, who leads Tearfund’s work in Haiti, said that storms had hampered early attempts at rescue and recovery. Multiple earthquakes had left their mark, and made it difficult for people to move on, with gang violence and the assassination of the President in July giving people even more reason to live in fear (News, 16 July). “People were already frightened,” he said.
“But we are in a better place to respond than in 2010. Tearfund has been training young people to become first-responders after disasters. After this earthquake, we saw the impact of that training. Within a few hours, the Tearfund-trained youth network were some of the first on the scene, and had conducted needs assessments in the most affected areas.
“Everyone is pulling together and responding to the crisis. But the need is great. Please stand with us in prayer at this crucial time for the people of Haiti.”