Haiti has just received another powerful blow. A powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti's capital on Tuesday, devastating a country that has seen more than its share of disasters both man-made and natural over the last few years. The news reports trickling in paint a bleak picture of almost unimaginable ruin.
I was privileged to witness some amazing progress in this tiny country that has long carried the dubious distinction of being the poorest nation in the western hemisphere during my annual and semi-annual trips to the island nation since the election of a new president in 2006. Paved roads and bridges had begun to appear across raging rivers that kept villages isolated. In the small community of 40,000 where most of my work took me, Engineers Without Borders drilled and installed seven clean water wells that dramatically lowered the infant mortality death rate. In a community that had once had just one Cuban-trained health worker who functioned without medicine or equipment, a small staff of doctors and nurses began to provide health care. A fragile sliver of hope had begun to take root.
This earthquake has devastated a country that does not have the resources to recover on its own. Mercy Corps’s has dispatched a response team to rush critical supplies and other urgent assistance to survivors. More staffers will arrive in the coming days.
As more aid workers arrive, they will face huge challenges. Haiti's international airport has just one runway and no taxiways, so airplanes that land there have to do a U-turn at the end of the runway and taxi back to a parking space. I can imagine that right now, that one runway and the airspace around Port au Prince is busier than a Los Angeles freeway. On the ground, the Mercy Corps team may find that accommodations are sparse or non-existent. Reports indicate that even major buildings in the capital city have been heavily damaged or destroyed. Security will also be an issue. The United Nations peacekeeping forces have provided the most reliable security in the country, but they themselves have been devastated by the death and injury of key personnel. Food and safe drinking water were never abundant, but now they will be even scarcer. Over the coming weeks and months Haitians will face tremendous obstacles to recovery.
Thankfully, the professionals at Mercy Corps have seen all of this before. They have a long history of helping earthquake survivors in other countries: Peru, China, Pakistan, and Indonesia. I have no doubts about their capacity to provide the best possible support in this situation. Several people have asked how they could best help with Mercy Corps’s effort. Really, the best way anyone could help is to make a cash donation to the Mercy Corps Haiti Earthquake Fund. As a matter of policy Mercy Corps does not use volunteers or donated materials like clothing from the general public in their relief efforts.
With a combination of generous donations and Mercy Corps' tremendous professional resources we can help Haiti survive this devastating body blow and replant the small seeds of hope that I saw grow there over the past few years.