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12 years after Haiti’s earthquake: Remembering Haitian lives have value

A man films himself in front of tires on fire during a general strike launched by several professional associations and companies to denounce insecurity in Port-au-Prince on October 18, 2021. A nationwide general strike emptied the streets of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on Monday with organizers denouncing the rapidly disintegrating security situation highlighted by the kidnapping of American and Canadian missionaries at the weekend. The kidnapping of 17 adults and children by one of Haiti's brazen criminal gangs underlined the country's troubles following the assassination of president Jovenel Mose in July and amid mounting lawlessness in the Western hemisphere's poorest nation. | RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we honor “Sanctity of Life” month in January — the same month we mark the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that claimed more than 250,000 lives and injured an additional 300,000 victims. The ongoing impact has continued to disrupt many lives, with people dying of starvation every day in this island nation only a few hundred miles from Florida’s southern tip.

However, unless Haiti makes the news for something such as an earthquake, a missionary kidnapping or the assassination of its president, the ongoing loss of life doesn’t seem to garner the global community's attention in the same way that other value-of-life issues do.

For those concerned about babies in the womb, individuals who are being trafficked or the elderly who live in fear of being euthanized, we tend to see much higher death rates in nearly all of the above categories in Haiti right now than we ever would in the United States. 

My family has been serving in Haiti for more than a decade now to combat these issues on behalf of suffering Haitians. Other missions groups have been working in similar capacities — all of us desperately trying to rescue orphans, feed starving children and prevent mothers and babies from dying in childbirth. We are seeing some success, but there is still much work to do.

The earthquake shattered an already-shaky infrastructure. The political instability that has remained ever since signifies that few repairs have been made. Roads still contain craters, buildings continue to lay in ruins, there is little-to-no access to electricity or clean water and what little food is available is unaffordable to the average Haitian. Gangs control the streets to the extent that people would rather starve and die at home than risk kidnapping and torture to try and find work or food.

Without international intervention, we will lose more and more of these precious lives every day. We have shown that a small investment of time and resources can make a world of difference. We established our LiveBeyond compound in a more rural area of Haiti, a couple of hours outside of Port-au-Prince, and by training and equipping locals — giving a hand up more than a handout — we have seen Haiti become more self-sustaining and mortality rates in this area have plummeted.

Since coming to Haiti 11 years ago, we’ve been progressing with our goal to provide healthcare, clean water and nutritional support to all people of need in our area. More importantly, we’ve established hope that these resources could be accessed in a sustainable, Haitian-led manner into the future. In addition, we are providing American-quality education and jobs to the people who need it most.  It has been incredible to witness the growth and blessings that have happened in just one part of Haiti, and we believe this could be replicated all over the country.  

As we recognize the Sanctity of Life this month, will you join me in also praying for and advocating for international intervention in Haiti so that hundreds of thousands of lives there might be spared? Reach out to your elected representatives and to the United Nations and indicate your support for sending peacekeeping forces back to Haiti.

And if you are in a position to give, research missions groups such as ours that are working in Haiti to continually provide sustainable solutions — not just a handout that is often stolen right out of the mouths it was intended to feed. In addition to LiveBeyond, I can recommend organizations we work with such as Food for the Poor and Convoy of Hope.

Together, we are helping ordinary Haitians learn agricultural skills so that they can feed their communities and employ their neighbors.

We are educating and equipping small business owners so that they can contribute to the economy. We are keeping workers healthy so they can continue to bring food home to their families. And most importantly, we are sharing the love of Jesus Christ so that these precious, vulnerable children of God can look forward to spending an eternity in Heaven, which is much closer for them than it is for most of us.

David Vanderpool, MD is a surgeon and CEO of LiveBeyond, a Christian humanitarian aid organization based in Nashville, Tennessee.  Dr. Vanderpool and his wife, Laurie, have lived in Thomazeau, Haiti fulltime for 7 years.

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