Saturday, February 7, 2015

January 2015 ~ 5th anniversary of the devastating earthquake

We just returned from our January team’s medical mission to Haiti, where we provided much needed care to more than 1200 at the clinic at Mountain Top Ministries. January 12, 2015, was the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti—so I would like to take this opportunity to share a few poignant facts. The earthquake was the first to strike this island nation in over 200 years. Haiti is approximately the size of Maryland with a population of about 10 million people. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti had been considered a failed state for many years prior to the earthquake due to its lack of infrastructure, a stable government, or a viable economy. In addition to the destruction of personal homes, the international airport, seaport, roads, hospitals, schools and universities, municipalities, a prison, and the presidential palace all collapsed during the earthquake. It took more than 2 years for only half of the rubble from the earthquake to be removed. According to Haitian government officials the earthquake disaster killed more than 250,000 people and displaced 1.5 million, who lived in tent cities without clean water, sanitation, food sources, or jobs and were ravaged by crime. According to the International Organization for Migration an estimated 103,565 people still currently live in 172 temporary settlement camps scattered throughout Port-au-Prince today. After an absence of more than 200 years, the cholera outbreak that began at the end of summer in 2010 has killed almost 9,000 and sickened over 700,000 people (UN statistics). The disease surfaced in Haiti months after the powerful earthquake, spreading rapidly during the rainy season due to the lack of adequate sanitation and clean water sources. Now most cholera treatment centers have dissipated, an immunization campaign has started and I did not hear of any recent cases.

As we traveled from the newly rebuilt airport to the guest house and clinic we see new roads with drainage curbs, street and stop lights, new buildings including homes, churches, businesses and hotels, gas stations, truck yards, street vendors, beautiful Haitian art, refurbished parks and many people going from here to there. What we don’t see is rubble or garbage. What we still see are the remaining “temporary” camps, people in need of health care and jobs, the valiant struggle of the Haitian people, somber reflection but a resilient countenance on most, and a lump in my throat with hope in my heart.

Sue Walsh

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