January 15, 2010
Relief groups and aid supplies are landing on the ground in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but getting these lifesavers to people in need is another matter.
Groups like Samaritan's Purse began flying into the capital's severely damaged airport on Wednesday morning, less than a day after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake leveled the area. The quake and powerful aftershocks have rendered the impoverished nation's port almost useless, while its bumpy roads are almost impassable because of damage and displaced people.
"When a country's capital city is decimated, you lose a lot in terms of staging and organization," Randy Martin, head of global emergency operations at Mercy Corps International, told the Wall Street Journal.
Workers on the ground report a devastation similar to 2004's Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed an estimated quarter million people. On Wednesday, country director of Haiti Foundation of Hope Delamy Bizilme said, "What I see I cannot express, a lot of houses collapsed and they cannot take the bodies out."
Bodies pulled from the rubble line the streets, and the critical 72-hour window when most survivors will be found is quickly closing. Haitians trying to fend for themselves face an increasingly dire situation as the days go by without adequate food and shelter. Critically low supplies of clean water, medical supplies and shelter have increased the tension in the city and surrounding areas.
On Thursday afternoon, the Red Cross hazarded to estimate the dead at 45,000 to 50,000 people.
"Things are really getting bogged down and the ports in Haiti and subsequently the Dominican Republic are becoming bottlenecks," said Dean Salisbury, a World Vision relief logistician.
"It looks like the US Military will be providing security and trying to get the ports open. The problem is the roads out of both the seaport and airport are all blocked … nothing is moving until they get the interior roads open. Fuel at the airport is a huge problem, hence the restrictions of flight by the FAA."
World Vision and other ministries have flown in water, supplies, volunteers and doctors, but many of these remain trapped near the jammed airport. Downed communication lines frequent power outages have further complicated efforts.
One aid worker with World Vision, Dr. Lesly Michaud, said that the local hospitals are not only running low on supplies, but on medical personnel as well.
"Yesterday, we visited one hospital that normally has 10 doctors working there. That day, they had one doctor treating all of the patients," he said. A trained physician himself, Dr. Michaud spent last night providing medical treatment at one local open-air hospital, but he said the demands are overwhelming. "We are doing everything we can do right now, but there is more that needs to be done."
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.
Photo copyright 2010 Baptist Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved.