The ACT Alliance global network of churches and related agencies says its members are bringing food and temporary shelter to victims of the earthquake that struck Haiti but has warned that the country’s food supplies may soon run out.
"The streets are still thronged with homeless people walking for hours to find food and water. As well as widespread destruction of homes, schools and other buildings, major damage has been done to key water, electricity and road systems," the ACT Alliance said in an 18 January report.
The alliance quoted Prospery Raymond, country manager for ACT-member Christian Aid, as saying he was concerned that without deliveries from outside there might not be enough food in the country to last more than a few days.
Tens of thousands of Haitians are feared dead following the 7.0 magnitude quake that struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince on 12 January.
Rain has compounded the situation of the million people without shelter. The border with the Dominican Republic remains insecure, the ACT Alliance said. Health risks from contagious diseases are becoming serious. Other towns are also badly affected, and many areas outside Port-au-Prince remain unexplored. An unknown number of staff from ACT members in the country remain unaccounted for, the alliance said.
Among those reported dead is the Rev. Sam Dixon, head of the New York-based United Methodist Committee on Relief, which is an ACT member. UMCOR reported on 16 December that Dixon had died before rescuers could extricate him from the rubble of the hotel where he had been staying. He was in the country to plan improvements to medical services in Haiti.
A day later, the agency reported that the Rev. Clinton Rabb, who had been with Dixon and other church officials at the hotel, had also died from his injuries. Rabb had been freed from the rubble, and airlifted to Florida for treatment. He headed volunteer efforts for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Quoted by the United Methodist News Service, Debbie Vest, a United Methodist Church mission volunteers coordinator, said, "We have lost two outstanding individuals. I can readily understand the grief of the Haitians and the sadness of the people you see on the street because those are our faces as well."
On 17 January, Haitians, whose society is deeply religious, took to the streets, many of them praying and spending "the morning searching for spiritual solace", The New York Times reported.
Outdoor services and prayer gatherings were numerous because many churches have been completely destroyed. Among them was the Episcopal cathedral in Port-au Prince, Cathédrale Sainte Trinité, a renowned building with murals depicting the life of Jesus. It is now reduced to dust and heaps of rubble.
Among those on the streets of Port-au-Prince was the Rev. Raphael Dessieu, a former president of the Methodist Church of Haiti, who was able to send a message to U.S. colleagues via email earlier in the week. "My family and I are alive, sleeping in the street, as home and items are all gone," he wrote, quoted by the UNMS. "It is not safe, so please pray."
(c) Ecumenical News International
Stephen Brown in Geneva contributed to this report.