As the death toll rises across Haiti following Saturday’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake, volunteers with Christian humanitarian organizations like World Vision are working tirelessly to provide physical, emotional and spiritual aid to those suffering.
“The earthquake hit Haiti pretty badly. World Vision is working with the government and NGO partners to assess needs," Fédorah Pierre-Louis, advocacy and external engagement director at World Vision Haiti, told The Christian Post.
"And we have deployed a team right now on the field focusing on the areas of shelter, food assistance, child protection and also, of course, COVID prevention as we're still going through the pandemic over here.”
Pierre-Louis said the international humanitarian organization is asking for prayer to "ensure that vulnerable children and their families are protected during this time.”
The earthquake killed at least 1,419 people, injured at least 6,900 people and destroyed the homes of as many as 1.5 million Haitians across the southern peninsula as of Monday, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency. The agency notes that the assessment remains "very partial."
Numerous churches were leveled in the wake of the quake while hundreds of people remain missing.
The quake also triggered landslides and damaged infrastructure, blocking roads and making it difficult for vital supplies to reach the impacted areas of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
And as Tropical Storm Grace hit the country with rain on Monday, the window to provide relief efforts is shrunk, Pierre-Louis said. Grace is expected to strengthen into a hurricane
“We need to act very, very fast. Time is very critical in making sure that we're providing relief efforts,” she stressed. “We’re working to rescue people still trapped under the rubble and clearing out some roads as well to increase access to care.”
So far, the humanitarian agency has sent nutrition kits and hygiene items for 6,000 people, she said.
“Given the vulnerability in the country, we’re prioritizing nutritional and emergency response support to as many people as we can," she said.
World Vision is planning to help as many as 240,000 people through clean water access, tents, food supply and child protection efforts.
In addition to providing water, hygiene goods, nutrition and shelter, World Vision seeks to provide emotional and spiritual assistance to vulnerable families — especially those with children.
This kind of support, Pierre-Louis said, will be desperately needed in the coming days.
She said that between the pandemic, worsening gang violence and political unrest stemming from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s 11 million people have endured unending trauma in recent months.
“Whenever there is a crisis, child protection is not necessarily prioritized on a government level,” Pierre-Louis stated. “World Vision tries to ensure that the well-being of kids is still protected. So we really want to raise awareness on that and continue to push for advocacy and the prioritization of child protection.”
“Children, in particular, have witnessed a lot of traumatic events,” she added. “We provide them with psychosocial support for children to protect their physical and mental wellbeing.”
Other Christian organizations are stepping up to meet emerging needs in Haiti, including the disaster relief organization Convoy of Hope.
In the coming days, the group plans to distribute 1 million meals to those impacted by the earthquake and hygiene kits and sheltering supplies.
The Virginia-based Operation Blessing has also deployed a disaster relief team to assess the situation. The organization plans to distribute emergency supplies and provide clean drinking water in the Les Cayes area. The charity will also help provide medicine and medical supplies to doctors from L'Hopital General, the largest public hospital of Haiti.
World Vision's Pierre-Louis applauded the United States government for its rapid response to the crisis.
Hours after the earthquake struck, President Joe Biden authorized an immediate U.S. response, while USAID Administrator Ambassador Samantha Power announced the deployment of a Disaster Assistance Response Team.
“We’re very, very grateful for the continued interest and concern,” Pierre-Louis said.
Rescue efforts will likely uncover “many more bodies” in the following days, she said.
She urged Christians in the West to pray for Haiti, highlighting the need for unity among the global Body of Christ.
“It's extremely, extremely important to remain united in prayers, and to remain united in solidarity, because we as Christians are very stressed these days,” Pierre-Louis emphasized.
“There are multiple crises going on right now. We need to remain united in prayers, in solidarity and in action to make sure that we feel like we're all part of one Christian family. We need to make sure that people know that they're not going through the crisis alone and that they have many people with them praying with them around the world.”
Click here to learn how to help World Vision deliver hope and practical help when disaster strikes.
Another massive earthquake shook Haiti in 2010, which at the time was said to be the most devastating natural disaster in Haiti's history.
In that quake, about 250,000 people died and 300,000 were injured. An estimated 1.5 million individuals were made homeless, living in makeshift displacement camps.