Tuesday, September 9, 2008

AWARENESS: Relief needed in Haiti after storms

If you feel called to do so, you can donate for emergency relief efforts for Haiti by going to their website:
Text From WorldVision.org

As rains from Hurricane Ike drenched northern Haiti, World Vision continued its relief activities for communities still suffering from the effects of Hurricanes Hanna and Gustav. Our staff also assisted people as they evacuated to higher and safer ground in northern Haiti on Sept. 6.

"The only good news here is that Hurricane Ike's path was far enough north that Haiti did not take another direct hit," said Wesley Charles, World Vision's national director in Haiti. "But the rains from Ike have made it even more difficult for aid workers to get into some of the worst-flooded areas. People are becoming increasingly desperate."

Access to many of the hard-hit areas remains a critical challenge, Charles emphasized. In the devastated city of Gonaive, 10,000 people are crammed into 115 shelters. An assessment found that just 10 of the 115 shelters had food. Flying into the cut-off areas will be difficult, as it's believed that all but one of the runways in the northwest are flooded. Helicopters are needed, but few are available in Haiti.

'Distraught and burdened families'

Despite ongoing access challenges, World Vision managed to provide 10-day food rations to about 450 families on the island of La Gonave, 1,100 hygiene kits to displaced people in the Central Plateau, and clothing and shelter materials to 300 families in Jean Denis, which became cut off from the capital overnight when rains from Hurricane Ike washed out the last remaining bridge into the area.

"In Jean Denis yesterday, I met scores of distraught and burdened families," said Steve Matthews, World Vision's emergency communications manager. "With the last bridge now destroyed, the needs in that cut-off region will continue to climb.

"Dirty water was everywhere as we traveled to Jean Denis," Matthews continued. "Children played in the filthy water. Women were washing clothes and dishes in overflowing streams. The farmland was absolutely drenched. Everything has become waterlogged, making it nearly impossible to cook, even for those who were able to salvage some of their rice."

Damaged crops

Because cooking is currently a challenge for flood-affected families, plans are underway to provide ready-to-eat food such as high-energy biscuits.

"Bread is scarce and will soon be gone, and much of people's stored brown rice got wet when Hurricane Hanna went by," explained World Vision relief coordinator Elvire Douglas. In a brief period of no rain on Saturday, people were trying to salvage their wet rice by drying it on tarps laid out on roads and in fields.

Storms exacerbate food crisis

World Vision plans to scale up its relief efforts in the week ahead in close coordination with the United Nations and other humanitarian groups in Haiti. We plan to distribute 40 metric tons of food in the city of Mirebalais beginning Tuesday, along with 150 hygiene kits and 250 cases of water.

Haiti has been hit hard by a succession of hurricanes and tropical rains over the past two weeks. Tens of thousands have been displaced. Overland access to a large portion of the northwest of Haiti is cut off by washed out bridges and roads, making food scarce. Meanwhile, the beginning of the school year has been delayed for at least a month, creating an additional hardship for children growing up in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The storms have also damaged the next mango crop, the only viable export crop from Haiti. The loss of this income will hurt farmers, even as much of the country struggles to feed itself in an ongoing food crisis caused by higher global food prices, among other factors.

Two ways you can help

Please pray for children and families affected by the multiple storms and severe flooding that has pounded Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Pray for organizations like World Vision that are working hard to bring life-saving relief to those who need it most.

Donate now to help World Vision respond quickly and effectively for children and families who are suffering in the wake of the recent flooding in Haiti.

Visit Worldvision.org for more information and how you can donate.