Adventists Move in Haiti Earthquake Relief;
Loss of Members’ Lives Feared
ADRA, Loma Linda University, Inter-America bringing aid
BY LIBNA STEVENS, Inter-America Division, and MEGAN BRAUNER, Adventist News Network
ne week after a massive earthquake leveled Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, both aid workers and survivors are struggling -- the former to quickly distribute food and clean water and the latter to get a share of emergency supplies. At the same time, Seventh-day Adventists, as with others in the nation, are trying to get a handle on just how many of their number have died. On January 19, 2010, media reports indicated some 200,000 people may have perished in the quake, and that number could climb much higher.
“We know that many of our church members have perished from this tragedy,” said Dr. Elie Henry, vice president of the church in Inter-America, during a brief telephone conversation with top administrators of the Inter-American Division (IAD) headquartered in Miami, Florida. “We just don’t have the number of the deceased yet.”
Dr. Henry, who was in Haiti when the 7.0 magnitude quake struck, has been coordinating efforts with church leaders to search for its missing members in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, and the hardest hit area of the country.
Under normal circumstances, about 50 percent of Hatians have access to clean water, a percentage that has drastically decreased since the earthquake, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) workers reported.
"Water is pr
emium," said Raymond Chevalier, an ADRA employee currently helping to coordinate relief work in Haiti. "In the following days, we expect civil unrest to grow -- especially in some of the overcrowded areas where people have sought shelter -- unless an abundant supply of water and other forms of aid are quickly made available to them."
Earthquake survivors camp at the Haitian Adventist University. [Photo: Dominican Union Mission/IAD]
Global Medic, an emergency response team working with ADRA in Haiti, is expected to distribute over 2 million water purification tablets in the next few days. The group's doctor and paramedics are providing assistance to the injured, performing amputations and other emergency procedures.
The group plans to set up an inflatable field hospital that will stay in place indefinitely. Global Medic is also setting up a water purification system at Haiti Adventist Hospital for refugees and patients camped on the grounds.
Lesly Archer, a doctor at the hospital, said the staff is in dire need of basic medical supplies, including IVs, gauze and antibiotics. The once 70-bed hospital is currently home to 400 patients, with more arriving every day, said Matt Herzel, an ADRA employee currently in Haiti.
Contrary to earlier reports, the Haitian Adventist Hospital is functioning and usable, having sustained only minor damage during the initial earthquake. However, some patients, particularly after the Jan. 20 aftershock which measured a magnitude of 6.1, may be reluctant to go indoors, even though procedures are taking place inside, a Loma Linda University (LLU) spokesman said.
“Patients were scared to reenter the building, but the building is usable and from what I can gather is one of the few fully-functioning hospitals in the country,” Dustin Jones, an LLU spokesman in Loma Linda said in a telephone interview.
“There are LLU personnel on the grounds there, performing surgery indoors and outdoors. There are at least 400 patients there and most are outside. They’ve set up a surgical suite outside to accommodate them, since the patients are scared. Another team en route and another team leaves Thursday (Jan. 21),” Jones said.
A Loma Linda University medical team, as well as physicians from the Caribbean island of Martinique, is en route to aid the understaffed and overworked doctors, said Elie Honore, health ministries director for the church in Inter-America. Honore, a physician, is coordinating Adventist medical teams going into Haiti.
So far, five of the Adventist Church's 13 world regions have promised $125,000 toward church rebuilding and assistance. Adventist world church administration has promised $200,000 to go directly to "organizational needs," said Juan Prestol, undertreasurer for the world church.
"This is in addition to the money our churches are donating to general relief efforts," Prestol said.
The Adventist University campus in Port-au-Prince has opened its gates to the community and has now more than 15,000 people taking refuge on its grounds.
“We have ordered 1,000 tents initially to attend to the needs of those taking refuge on our university’s campus,” explained Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer for the church in Inter-America.
With church members still unaccounted for and extensive damage caused to dozens of Adventist churches throughout the city, top IAD church leaders have canceled any church business trips to focus on the relief efforts.
“We plan to coordinate and establish a way to help our church members and try to evaluate damage to our denominational properties while there,” said Verduzco, who will travel to Haiti with IAD President Pastor Israel Leito.
Verduzco is also coordinating a fund at the Division level with all the unions to help during the rebuilding of churches in Haiti. It’s a pressing concern as church leaders realize that their church members will need the kind of spiritual support churches can offer.
“The church membership in Haiti is one of the most generous in the world,” said Verduzco. “The relation of missionary offering to tithe is 9.5 percent. They are very generous with the world church, so it is time for the world church to be generous with them.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America has set up a special fund account specifically to assist church members. Donations may be sent by check to the Inter-American Division, Re: Haiti Catastrophe Fund, 8100 S.W. 117th Avenue, Miami, Florida, 33183. Donors can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; for updated news on Haiti, visit http://www.interamerica.org/.