Haiti: Relief Efforts Underway in Aftermath of Devastating Earthquake

BY LIBNA STEVENS, news editor, Inter-America Division                                               [ Main Story ]

orty-eight hours after a powerful earthquake hit the impoverished country of Haiti, thousands of Seventh-day Adventists are still unaccounted for and concerns are rising over the possibility of deaths among church members. The magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which hit near the capital city of Port-au-Prince, flattened buildings and killed tens of thousands.

Among Seventh-day Adventist casualties, one pastor was believed killed in the disaster.

Damage to church property includes the destruction of two of the city’s largest churches. In addition, the Adventist university and hospital sustained some structural damage. However, the university has made its campus grounds available to hundreds seeking refuge, and the hospital staff has resumed its medical operations outdoors.

“Our leaders are frantically addressing their situation there,” said Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America, after hearing from Dr. Elie Henry, an Inter-America vice president, who was in Haiti when the quake hit. Dr. Henry, who took part in the Follow the Bible activities in Port-au-Prince earlier this week, has been in Haiti helping to organize efforts and providing support in the wake of the disaster.

SEEKING SHELTER: After the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, survivors rest in a makeshift shelter in the parking lot of the general hospital. [Photo: UN/L Abass]
“The top three administrators at the church’s headquarters office in Haiti are coordinating efforts the best they can in the aftermath of the disaster,” said Pastor Leito, who spoke to leaders briefly today over the phone. Leaders from the Central Haiti Conference based in Port-au-Prince are searching for pastors and their congregations, as well.

“We fear that many of our members may have died,” said Pastor Leito. “We are so concerned about getting help for our brethren. They need shelter, water, food, and medicines.”

A special assessment team from the Inter-American Division (IAD) is flying Jan. 15 to the Dominican Republic, and plans to cross the border into Haiti by car tomorrow. The team will help coordinate relief efforts. The eight-member team, including four from the ADRA International Office, one from Germany, and three from Inter-America, will team up with four experts in disaster response and post trauma counseling in the Dominican Republic to respond to the needs in Haiti.

In addition, ADRA International has coordinated a group from Canada that will be joining the assessment team and providing medical aid in mobile clinics.

“The purpose of our team is to establish a basis of operations so that we can offer logistics and volunteers to the other entities and donors and other non-government agencies that are eager to partner with us,” said Wally Amundson, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) director for Inter-America.

Team leaders will work in Haiti for at least one week, and some team members are prepared to stay and help for an additional three to four weeks.

ADRA International, ADRA Canada and ADRA Inter-America have put together an initial relief operations budget of $85,000.

“We know there will be more support as we go, but that’s just to get things started,” said Amundson. “Many of the ADRA offices around the world have said they are willing to become partners.”

“With the lack of communication in Haiti, we don’t know how much is available locally or how much we would need to draw on from the Dominican Republic, which is a potential source of supply line and hub for the relief effort,” said Amundson, who has satellite phones which will provide direct communication to the IAD.

Church leaders hope to soon have more information as to its 100,000 church members living in Port-au-Prince, as well as the damages to its 123 church buildings and dozens of schools there.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Haiti has more than 335,000 church members and 470 churches. In addition to a hospital, a university, and a bakery, the church operates dozens of schools there.

For more updates on Haiti and other news, visit www.interamerica.org. In the U.S., contributions may be made to ADRA’s Emergency Response Fund, at 800-424-2372 or online at www.adra.org. Donations in Canada should be made to ADRA Canada’s Haiti 2010 Emergency Fund at 888-274-2372 or online at www.adra.ca.


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