One year after earthquake, Haiti remains desperate for help
The numbers alone cannot possibly reflect the scope of human suffering, but they are mindboggling nonetheless.
More than a year after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, the toll on the island nation borders on the unimaginable.
More than 300,000 are presumed dead. About a million people remain homeless. Officials say less than 5 percent of the debris has been cleared. A cholera epidemic – outside the quake zone itself – has taken 3,600 lives. Huge tent cities, erected in haste and lacking even the most basic provisions, have taken on an air of permanence.
“It can be disheartening to see how little has been done there,” said Reverend Albert Melifaite, pastor of First Haitian UMC in Roswell.
Melifaite, whose roots run deep in Haiti, lost various family members and friends in the quake, which struck on Jan. 12, 2010, centered about 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. The quake was felt more than 200 miles away in Cuba.
In the year since the tragedy, Melifaite has made eight trips to Haiti. This month, he leaves on trip No. 9. Much of his efforts have been focused on helping orphans.
“There has been much focus on Haiti and billions of dollars committed,” Melifaite said, “but there is little to show for it. Not much has changed. People are suffering. They are hungry. But they continue to be hopeful.”
How desperate is the need for food? How hungry would you have to be to, literally, eat dirt?
Melifaite knows. He has watched as starving Haitians carefully prepare and consume mud pies.
“It is heartbreaking,” he said.
Haiti relief remains a high priority for United Methodists in North Georgia and for the UMCOR. In 2010, North Georgia Methodists gave more than $1 million to the General Advance Funds for Haiti relief.
On Sat, Jan. 15, members of the North Georgia Conference gathered in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park to mark the one-year anniversary of the Haiti quake. A large, clear container filled with rubble and debris served as a visual reminder of the destruction.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an advance story on the event and quoted Jamie Jenkins, executive assistant to the bishop.
“"The cleanup has barely begun," Jenkins told the AJC. "When you look at the vastness of the destruction, the scope of the poverty in the area, it's hard to assess what progress has been made. The scars still run deep."
In addition to Melifaite’s ongoing efforts, various teams from the North Georgia Conference are planning a trip to Haiti in 2011.
“There has been a lack of accountability for governmental organizations promising to help in Haiti,” Melifaite said. “But when you go there you can see the church at work. The situation in Haiti is desperate in many ways, but you can also see the hope. As Christians, we always have hope.”
To learn more, please visit UMCOR's Haiti emergency page at umcor.org. To support UMCOR's relief and recovery work in Haiti, please visit www.umcorhaiti.org.