Unless the underlying problems of deforestation and poverty are tackled in Haiti, tropical storms and hurricanes will continue to have a devastating effect, a Christian Relief Agency warned on Thursday.
According to Christian Aid, the impact of the tropical storm Jeanne - which has claimed 700 lives in Haiti - has been greatly exacerbated by the underlying vulnerability of the population. The storm created enormous mudslides, which swept away homes and isolated communities.
"Because the economic situation for many Haitians is so precarious, they rely on chopping down trees for fuel. It is still commonplace to use charcoal, which requires an enormous amount of wood. So in the poorest areas there has been widespread deforestation," said Judith Turbyne, Christian Aid's regional manager for Central America. more >>
Tropical Storm Jeanne swept north of Haiti during the weekend, drenching the impoverished Caribbean nation of 8 million, inundating cities and sending deadly mudslides through towns and villages. The government put the death toll at 662 and expected it to rise as relief workers recovered bodies and reached areas isolated by the now receding water.
According to the UN peacekeeping forces in Haiti, who were deployed immediately following the disaster, 500 bodies have been recovered in Gonaïves and there are reports of 56 dead in Port de Paix, 18 in Chasolme, 14 in Gros-Morne, 9 in Pilate and 9 in Ennery. The northern part of the country was described by the Primer Minister as a “vast sea” when he visited the area on September 19. Floods and landslides had previously affected Haiti in May this year leaving at least 1,500 people dead and spreading devastation in the southern part of the country.
Relief supplies were starting to reach the worst-hit areas, but the pace was slowed by waterlogged roads and worries about security in a country that is still unstable after an armed revolt ousted ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February. more >>
The churches and people of Haiti have been among the top concerns of mainline churches across the States since the ousting of the country’s former president Aristide. Following those concerns, on May 5, during the deliberations of the 2-week-long General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the delegates passed a resolution calling on the U.S. to provide the needs of Haitian Asylum seekers.
"The U.S., by its own admission, is detaining Haitian asylum seekers in order to deter a mass exodus from Haiti and has a policy that is contrary to international law and applies it in a discriminatory fashion," the resolution charged.
According to the United Methodist resolution, Haitian families attempting to enter the United States are separated, with women and men held in jails "in deplorable conditions" alongside criminals. Haitians denied entry into the United States and deported are put at "great risk" when they return to their homeland. more >>
On Thursday, April 29, evangelical church leaders met for a time of prayer with President Boniface Alexandre at the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. This meeting was in contrast to recent waves of violence following the February 28 resignation of the former president, and the civil unrest that led to the evacuation of many missionaries.
Bible League's Latin America Director Tim DeVries said, "They were able to sit down and talk about some of the concerns with the church, pray with them. He actually received the Bible as well. So, we're very excited about the opportunities that might bring for a little bit more openness for the church to work and the church to grow." Bible League’s Director of Haiti Ministry was among those present at the presidential palace.
Although the Bible League’s Port-au-Prince office was within the vicinity of the presidential palace, no damage had been inflicted on the building during the civil unrest earlier this year. “We are very thankful to the Lord because we only closed [the office] for one week, even though we are just a couple blocks away from the presidential palace,” said DeVries. “Every building surrounding our office was burned or looted, but the Bible League ministry office was untouched.” more >>
Following the violent uprising in Haiti that ousted the past president and displaced thousands of citizens internally, several Christian humanitarian groups gathered strength and support to distribute emergency food and medicine to the Haitians.
Among those groups was Church World Service ?the humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches, which has member churches from across 36 denominations.
According to a Church World Service report following a March 15-22 assignment, while there has been some improvement in the situation in Haiti, there is still an avid need for assistance, both physically and spiritually for the many victims in the nation. more >>
Christian-based humanitarian organizations continue to supply sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief and refugee assistance in the recovering island nation. Despite the violence that has been scorching the volatile land, the minority Christians strongly hold onto their faith as their greatest hope.
At that end, the Church World Service, the humanitarian arm of 36 denominations in the United States announced that it will begin distributing its first shipment of food and medicines this week. The aid, valued at $151,003-arrived in the Dominican Republic last week.more >>