Another Earthquake Strikes Haiti
At 8:30am (GMT-4) on August 14, a strong, shallow earthquake rocked southwestern Haiti just 12km northeast of Saint Louis du Sud, about 125 kilometers west of the capital Port-au-Prince. The 7.2-magnitude quake, which was 10km deep, toppled buildings and homes. It damaged infrastructure and roads, cutting off access to some roads in the southwest, such as national road 7 (R.N. #7) which connects Les Cayes and Jeremie, and forced many to flee their homes in fear that they may collapse. (Article here)
In a report issued on August 16 by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the death toll now stands at 1,400 people and more than 6,900 injured. These figures will be likely continue increasing as search-and-rescue teams and volunteers search through the rubble to find survivors. Several powerful aftershocks followed the initial quake, measuring at or above magnitude 4.0 on the Richter scale, worsening an already dire situation and complicating early search-and-rescue operations.
The southern and western parts of the country have borne the brunt of the earthquake, including Les Cayes, Jeremie, Anse à Veaux, Aquin, Cavaillon, and Baradères, while some remote communities closer to the epicenter, which has yet to be reached and remains out of contact, are thought to have been completely devastated. According to the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.), nearly 2.2 million people were exposed to shaking intensity VI or stronger on the Modified Mercantile Intensity (MMI) Scale, with more than 230,000 people living within 15km of the epicenter, per the World Food Programme (W.F.P.).
According to the Haitian Civil Protection General Directorate (D.G.P.C.), more than 37,300 homes have been destroyed. Nearly 46,000 sustained damages, leaving thousands homeless. The level of damage and destruction to homes suggests that the number of people displaced and homeless will continue to grow over the coming days and weeks, creating significant shelter and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) needs in a context where some 19,000 people, internally displaced by escalating gang-related violence, have failed to receive adequate assistance in these areas. (Article here)
Since last Saturday, the Latin America and the Caribbean Area Executive has been in direct contact with the Partners. Global Ministries accompanies two partners: the National Spiritual Council of Churches in Haiti (CONASPEH) and the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice/House of Hope (FOPJ). In conversations with the Area Executive, Rev. Dr. Francoise Villier, CONASPEH’s General Bishop and President reported them as “returning to the same pain” as in 2010. With scars still healing from what they suffered in that year, “this time, it’s in the south of the country with its 18 communes.” CONASPEH has more than two thousand churches in the south, and each church has a school project in it. Rev. Dr. Villier can’t give exact numbers at this time. Still, preliminary reports by church leaders in the area said that the earthquake could destroy a substantial number of them. In addition, “certain members of the churches now rest in the heavens.” As far as she knows, in Nippes, CONASPEH has 13 damaged churches. In Les Cayes, among 25 churches, they reported 42 deaths because of the earthquake. CONASPEH thanks Global Ministries and its churches for prayers and for seeking ways to accompany them through this crisis.
Polycarpe Joseph, FOPJ/HOH’s Executive Director, informed Global Ministries that the situation is alarming in three departments of the southern region. In the Grand’anse department, FOPJ/HOH has been accompanying 47 families in the area since the passing of hurricane Mathew in 2016. Now, those families have lost almost everything because of the earthquake. “These families do not live in cities. They are real and vulnerable peasants who, without our support, will not benefit from any help. Our presence with them and the support received from Global Ministries has allowed the children of those families to read and write. But, our dilemma is the next opening of classes which will be on September 6. We have a lot of needs to meet at the House of Hope. We have more than 200 children to be educated and fed, 75 young people and 50 elderly people we accompany through our ministry”, said Mr. Joseph.
Things continue to be complicated for our siblings in Haiti. As I write these lines, Tropical Depression Grace is moving across the southern coast of Hispaniola, the island comprising Haiti and the Dominican Republic, on late Monday. That is bringing sustained winds and heavy rain. Rain is forecast to lighten during the morning hours Tuesday and will last into the afternoon into the far western portions of the southern peninsula. Floods can occur in the affected area by the earthquake, and many people are already sleeping outdoors since the quake. (Article here)
At this moment, people mainly need potable water and first aid kits. Almost all farmers’ water tanks are damaged. In addition, the impact of this earthquake will create a food crisis. Safe shelter and health services are also part of the needs that our partners mention in our dialogues. Reconstruction of houses, places of worship, and schools will be addressed at a later stage of the attention to this disaster. Global Ministries shares its ministry of accompaniment on this endeavor with Week of Compassion (Disciples) and O.G.H.S./Global H.O.P.E (UCC).
These are troubled times where we are called to affirm our love and empathy with our partners and the people of Haiti. In the recent Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) ‘s General Gathering, it was affirmed that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NRSV) May God help us affirm to our Haitian siblings that our common bond of love in Jesus Christ would be a reality. Let’s show it through our solidarity and accompaniment of them.
To support our partners, CONASPEH and House of Hope, in their ministries of accompaniment to victims and families, you can make a financial contribution through Global Ministries. Information on sending gifts to Global Ministries online, by check in the mail, or by phone can be found at www.globalministries.org/give.