Today marks the one year anniversary of the devastating Haiti earthquake. With most of the news coverage focused on Port-au-Prince, we want to provide you with a glimpse of the aftermath that has occurred outside of the capital city. Specifically, we’ll take a look at Jeremie, Haiti – a city of roughly 140,000 people that lies 120 miles due west of Port-au-Prince and serves as the home of Haiti Bible Mission. This report will look at the events of the past 12 months in an effort to give you a better feel for how widespread the effects of the earthquake and other disasters have been throughout the country.
Dave Stockeland, Director of Field Operations, was in Jeremie when the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. Damage in Jeremie was minor compared to Port-au-Prince – the walls and roofs of a few structures collapsed, but the majority of the buildings survived the earthquake undamaged. Relatively few injuries were reported in the Jeremie area. While most buildings remained intact, the fragile supply infrastructure throughout Haiti produced almost immediate water, food, and fuel shortages. Food and water are valuable commodities in Haiti in the best of conditions – now even those with no damage to their homes or businesses found themselves in search of these basic necessities. Dave remained in Jeremie the following weeks helping with the pressing food and shelter needs, leaving the area only to retrieve food and fuel to continue the humanitarian efforts.
Haiti Bible Mission Executive Director Mark Stockeland and his family were stateside during the earthquake. His wife had delivered their second child just one week before the quake struck. Due to security concerns, Mark traveled to Haiti without his family one week later. He spent time in Grand Goave, Haiti (one and a half hours west of Port-au-Prince), where he delivered tents, sleeping bags, water, and medical supplies, and helped with rescue missions and clearing rubble. Grand Goave was damaged almost as severely as Port-au-Prince, and at the time, was as far as Mark could travel towards Jeremie because of the damaged roads.
Nearly one and a half months would pass before the airports and road conditions allowed Mark and his family to return to the Haiti Bible Mission compound in Jeremie. The biggest challenge in Jeremie was the influx of refugees from the Port-au-Prince area. Nearly 100,000 people descended on the area in and around Jeremie, almost all of them arriving with only the clothes on their backs. The more fortunate ones stayed with friends and family - others were left to live and survive on the streets. Food and shelter were the main challenges. Secondary issues included an immediate overpopulation of an already struggling area. The refugees had trouble finding jobs to support themselves – there simply weren’t enough to meet the new supply of labor. Jeremie residents who took in friends and families found their already desperate food and financial situation stretched further.
This overwhelming situation gave the Haiti Bible Mission team the opportunity to live the difference and help the hungry and hurting people who had just lost all they had. It also provided an opportunity for supporters in the U.S. to play a role in the earthquake assistance. Donations began to pour in from all over the US in the weeks after the earthquake - donations that allowed Haiti Bible Mission to provide food, clothing and tents to a portion of the 100,000 refugees from Port-au-Prince. Haiti Bible Mission also constructed a housing unit to provide a place to sleep for as many as possible following the earthquake.
Throughout the summer and fall, many of the refugees left Jeremie and returned home to rebuild their lives in Port-au-Prince. The ones who stayed were either permanently absorbed into the households of their friends and family, or were able to start new lives 120 miles west of the ones they left behind.
Early November brought another natural disaster: Hurricane Tomas. While it spared the capital city, the force of Tomas was much stronger on the western tip of Haiti. Jeremie sustained major damage to several buildings and had many downed trees. The biggest issue was the excessive rains which produced flooding and mudslides. Many of the people living in the countryside outside of Jeremie lost their entire garden. This seems trivial from an American perspective, but the garden is the main source of food and income for those living outside of the city. Haitians barely get by in the best of conditions – a total loss of their food and income supply is almost incomprehensible. Many went without food for days – there was simply not enough to go around and too few people to deliver it where it was needed most. Haiti Bible Mission stepped in during this time and began the process of rebuilding gardens and outdoor kitchens, and provided emergency food and supplies to care for as many as possible.
To further complicate conditions, the country has had to contend with a deadly cholera epidemic. It has hit Jeremie especially hard. Cholera is fairly easy to treat – clean water and proper medication can provide a full recovery. Unfortunately, clean water isn’t always available…seeing a doctor is even more challenging. The available medical talent has been overwhelmed by the sheer number of people infected. To make matters worse, many doctors and nurses are avoiding the cholera victims, fearing they will contract the disease as well. All of these factors have resulted in many people not getting adequate treatment in the early stages when cholera is easy to control. UNICEF currently has seven tent clinics set up outside of the hospital in Jeremie to help treat the cholera victims. Nationwide, it has infected 170,000 and claimed the lives of over 3,500.
Twelve months have passed since the earthquake hit…twelve long months of hardship, searching and survival. One million people remain homeless close to Port-au-Prince. The number is far less in Jeremie, but homeless refugees still remain. The last year has been exceedingly hard on the entire country. Haiti Bible Mission helps those it can and has made great progress since the earthquake, but much remains to do. Remaining committed to God and to carrying out His plan is the only way to have an effect in such an impoverished land, for it is only by His hand that we can accomplish anything worthwhile in Haiti. Haiti Bible Mission would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who faithfully support the organization and the work in Haiti. Through your support, we are able to live the difference on a daily basis and help a people desperate for God.
You can learn more about the work of this organization at www.haitibiblemission.org. Please consider becoming a supporter and help us continue the work God has called us to do in Haiti.
Haiti Bible Mission