Haiti Recovery Update
The Road to Recovery
An Update from Danita's Children
Three weeks ago Hurricane Matthew ripped through the Caribbean, devastating many cities across southern Haiti. The category 4 storm destroyed thousands of homes, devastated farms and livestock, and left 1.4 million people displaced and in desperate need of emergency aid.
After hearing reports of the death toll reaching almost 1,000 and the possibility of a potential cholera outbreak, we prayerfully made the decision to send an emergency relief team to help.
Right now, across southern Haiti, there are thousands of people crying out for help. People who are displaced from their homes - some are injured or sick, others without food and water. Our constant prayer is to be the answer to some of those cries for help. Where God leads, we want to follow. And so we followed.
Our team left last Tuesday, loaded down with emergency supplies including tarps, boxes of Medika Mamba (a high-protein food used to combat malnutrition), IV bags, and cholera medicine. The hardest hit areas in the west had already received some emergency aid, so we drove east to reach a community we knew had not seen any relief efforts.
Wednesday morning, we drove two and a half hours up the mountain to Baie d'Orange, where we partnered with local health workers to fight malnutrition. At the base of the mountain we ran into a road block: a river with an unfinished bridge. Large trucks were stuck in the rocks throughout the riverbed; and people told us cars had not been able to pass through since the hurricane. We were nervous our pickup truck might not make it across, but we were carrying life-saving supplies, so we knew we had no other option. We started praying as we made the trek across the rocky waterway, and God led our vehicle across the river without incident. His provision was only beginning.
We arrived to the community and began assessing needs to distribute supplies. Joel, the health worker in that area, took us to visit the malnutrition and cholera clinics.
Pastor David shared the gospel as we passed out Medika Mamba and tarps to the families. We made home visits to children who have received malnutrition care from us in the past. One family lost part of their home in the storm, another family was struggling to provide for their four children.
As we got ready to leave the last house, a woman packed a large basket of carrots as an offering of gratitude. She insisted that we take it even though we knew her family was struggling to feed themselves. We saw the hope of Jesus there.
The next morning, we rose before the sun. We continued our journey west to see how we could help the most devastated region. Our nurse, Macda, traveled several hours with three children back to our inpatient Malnutrition Center in Ouanaminthe for treatment, and we headed to the city of Jeremie.
We were stunned as we continued our journey - the devastation of Hurricane Matthew was worse than anything we could have imagined. Trees were blown down, cement buildings were completely crumbled, rebar was bent in half, and nearly every single house was gone. For more than two hours, we saw total destruction. People made temporary shelters out of debris, pieces of metal, and sticks. Our truck was filled with a rotten smell - it was filthy, stagnant water, which people were using to fill their water jugs.
Finally, we reached Jeremie. It looked like a warzone. United Nations trucks drove by, filled with armed guards. Downed trees and power lines blocked roads. People crowded outside as they passed out vouchers for emergency supplies. There was not an area that hadn't been touched by hurricane damage.
Almost immediately after arriving, we met with some local missionaries. They told us about an orphanage that was destroyed during the storm. The damage to its property was significant. The children's sleeping quarters were on the second floor, above the church, which was now completely gone. The roofs had been blown off every building. The cement wall that surrounded the property was crumbled, and in some areas, no longer stood. The children were staying in a temporary shelter that was simply a two-room cement building. There were 57 children sleeping under one roof, without beds, blankets, or even mosquito nets. It will take months to rebuild their home so we are renting a large house for them in Jeremie.
Schools all over Jeremie have been turned into temporary shelters for people who have lost everything. We found two shelters housing over 1,500 people that had received little aid; we decided to help in any way that we could.
A 90-year-old man sought refuge here after his house was destroyed. A woman, seven-months pregnant, stayed here with her three young children because there was nothing left of her home. A young girl with a three-week-old baby struggled to feed her newborn because she was starving. Every person just was trying to survive to tomorrow; every family was struggling to figure out what's next.
We determined that the most immediate needs were clean water and food. We provided rice and beans and water to those at the shelters. However, the food shortages made security at the shelters a serious issue. The people living here told us that food had been brought to them a week ago but it was stolen by gangs. The other immediate need is shelter, so these people can go home. We purchased tarps, which will provide temporary relief as they rebuild.
Our paths crossed with a missionary named Casey, who runs a fishing ministry. He shared with us that all of his boats were destroyed in the storm. These men, who provide fish for the community and the local orphanage that was devastated by Hurricane Matthew, hadn't been able to go out since the storm. We bought 6 boats for them.
In every direction you looked there was damage. We walked around and our minds were filled with so many questions. God, where are you in this mess? People who had already suffered so much were now suffering through this. Our relief efforts felt small and inadequate compared to the vast number who need help. However, we continued to wake up every morning with renewed spirits, ready to serve the one He put in our path. Because even stopping to help just one person is better than not stopping at all.
We decided to visit the hospital, which we found in desperate need of medicine and supplies. A man lay dying of tetanus; the doctor said he had to buy the medicine to treat this man with his own money. We turned the corner and discovered the maternity ward was flooded. Two men stood sweeping water through a small hole in the wall.
A tiny baby lay in a bed; he has microcephaly, most likely from Zika, and his mother abandoned him at the hospital over a month ago. A small tag around his ankle read "abandoned".
The hospital was busy and we knew they weren't equipped to properly care for a special needs child. We knew if we left him there, he would die.
We went back the next day with child protective services and the entire process took about two hours. The nurses clapped and sang praise songs as we walked out of the hospital with the baby, who we named Micah.
Micah is three months old and weighs four pounds. He has a chance at life now; he is not alone in a hospital, labeled as abandoned. He has a family and a forever home at Danita's Children.
This week we have helped people in tangible ways. We have met urgent, physical needs. But our prayer is that by doing this we have shown the love of Jesus Christ.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, there are many needs - Danita's Children has decided to focus on the following:
Mission Aviation Flights will fly 1,100 tarps we have purchased to Jeremie. We are partnering with Haiti Bible Mission to safely distribute the tarps.
Working with local missionaries, we will help restore and rebuild damaged homes.
In the coming months, we know malnutrition is expected to rise. We are partnering with the local hospital to implement a program to fight severe cases of malnutrition.
The most recent children who have been treated at our malnutrition clinic will be sent home with a goat or sheep to help support their family.
Thank you for making all of this possible! Your generous gifts, prayers, and support have been instrumental in providing immediate and long-term relief in Jeremie.
Throughout our trip, the scripture that God kept putting on my heart was Luke 9:24.
"Whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will save it."
May we invest our lives in the things that matter most to God.
In His Grace,
We rescue, love, and care for orphans and impoverished children,
meeting their needs spiritually, physically, academically, and emotionally.