Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:47
The tiny nation of Haiti and its people are suffering unimaginable hardships resulting from the earthquake and numerous aftershocks. In the most literal sense, Haiti has been brought to its knees.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to have experienced the destruction firsthand. Nearly all of the buildings have been severely damaged or destroyed. The infrastructure that provides vital services such as electricity, water and sewage disposal are gone. Access to food and shelter, even now, at best is in short supply. Local hospitals cannot respond to any medical emergency. Their buildings are in ruins and the staff are either wounded, dying or trapped in flattened structures.
Law and order is nonexistent in the earthquake’s aftermath as police and other governmental workers are also victims of this total devastation. Even with the arrival of troops from several nations, including the United States, restoring calm in a climate of sheer desperation among thirsty, wounded and starving survivors is a difficult mission.
World Vision’s Laura Blank comments in her interview with Christianity Today, “Many of my colleagues have said they haven’t seen anything like this, in terms of the scale of the devastation and complications, since the tsunami in 2004.”
Without a doubt, the greatest tragedy is the death toll numbering in the tens of thousands and the suffering of the survivors. According to a Time and CNN blog, a factory that employed 10,000 people collapsed, killing about 9,000. A nearby Catholic high school of 700 students collapsed killing all but 26 who were pulled from the rubble. Of these, four died from their injuries.
Elsewhere, scores of injured people wait for medical treatment, many of them slowly dying from gangrene infections or other complications before help arrives.
Blank adds, “There’s a smell though that hangs in the air when you walk past these camps. It’s hot, and people have been living outside, they obviously don’t have access to water to bathe. There’s the smell of human waste in the air, and also a lot of the dead bodies that haven’t been collected.”
In the midst of the suffering, Banks describes an astonishing event. “Almost every night since I’ve been here, and it’s been almost a week now, when darkness falls you would think it would start to get violent or people would start to be uncomfortable, but the sound I hear is singing. And I asked one of the staff members when I first heard it, because I thought maybe there was a church nearby. She said, ‘No, they’re singing a hymn.’ They were singing, in French, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ They were singing it over and over again, and it was profound to hear that. I knew they were in camps, many of them were homeless and had lost family or friends and they were still praising the Lord singing hymns and traditional Haitian songs.”
We live in a world where good and evil coexist. In the midst of chaos, tragedy and unspeakable evil, though these people suffer from natural calamity and social injustice, they choose to respond by doing good. Instead of cursing God or losing faith, they reach out to him and give thanks for being alive. They comfort fellow victims, even sharing the meager supplies of food and water to those that have none.
Daughter-in-law Anna Versluis is no stranger to the rural villages in Haiti. Her experience includes working for Mennonite Central Committee in addition to completing doctoral research in environmental geography in the agrarian countryside. In her blog (anna-in-haiti.blogspot.com/), she includes correspondence from friends and associates describing their experiences.
A human rights worker writes, “I’m OK but things are not good at all here. I was at work when it happened...the office itself wasn’t damaged. My wife was in the living room (at our house) and our niece (who lives with us) was in the kitchen when the earthquake happened. My niece started to run—she’d never been in a situation like this and she ran out into the street. When she was almost in front of the gate, the neighbor’s house fell on her. The neighbor’s roof and a wall crushed her head. She died right there…. Her name is Ismaella. She was eight years old. She is our godchild. I’m in shock. The morgues cannot take any more bodies so Ismaella’s family and I had no choice but to bury her quickly.”
One final note. As I write this, I received an e-mail detailing the news that Haiti’s only operating flour mill was destroyed by the earthquake. It employed more than 200 Haitians and was in operation at the time of the earthquake. Many are still missing and feared dead.
Without a doubt, the Haitians are in need of our help, financially, materially and especially our prayers.