Haiti (MNN) — Haiti's plight is already fading from the headlines after Hurricane Sandy pelted the island nation.
Emergency services officials in Haiti say the death toll from Hurricane Sandy has risen to 51 due to swollen rivers and landslides. Baptist Haiti Mission spokesman Ron Sparks explains, "When rain falls in the mountains, it just continues to build as it flows down the mountain and washes away everything in its path. This is what's happened so many times before in Haiti, and it just makes a bad situation worse."
Emergency officials say 15 are missing, and 16 others were injured in the storm which also lashed Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
Port-au-Prince was hard hit, as were communities to the south, many of which are still cut off due to the destruction of roads and bridges. Authorities fear that the full extent of the storm's havoc on Haiti is only beginning to emerge.
Already, initial assessments have revealed extensive damage to crops throughout the southern third of the country. Food security will emerge as another problem down the road because the crops were heavily damaged in the 2012 hurricane season. Officials lamented this week that what was left standing by Hurricane Isaac appeared to have been washed away by Hurricane Sandy. It couldn't come at a worse time. Prior to the storm, Haitians were protesting the cost of living.
What's more, there's an increasing threat of cholera and other water-borne diseases posed by the standing water and lack of sanitation. With the epidemic so recently contained, that prospect is nightmarish for aid workers. Sparks agrees. "It's always a concern in these kinds of situations, where sanitation and clean drinking water and so forth are hard to come by. So far, I haven't heard anything, but it certainly is an ongoing concern."
Assessments are ongoing for BHM. When Hurricane Isaac struck, many of the lean-tos and shanty buildings fell apart, resulting in people seeking refuge in BHM's churches and schools. However, "Several of those were damaged also. We were in the process of repairing roofs to some of those more substantial buildings following the last storm."
Baptist Haiti Mission's team needs help. And with the focus shifting to the U.S. as it braces for the storm's onslaught, Sparks is concerned that people will forget about the suffering in Haiti. "We talk about homes and buildings that were lost; but people lose their livestock, their gardens, and their whole means of existence. When that happens, the missionary team in Haiti can go right in and, to the extent that we have the resources and funds available, we can help replace those things; we do it all in the name of Christ."
Repairs are getting expensive. The ministry has to buy more materials for roofing and other repairs–and quickly, so they can get people back into their homes. "Now, we've got this [storm] on top of the previous storm, and shelter is even harder to come by. We're going to continue making repairs to the damaged building; we're just now beginning to get reports back on further damage that was done."
Sparks says there are many ways to come alongside their team. First, "We'd ask people to be praying for the people of Haiti, for our missionary team, and for construction workers down there. Also [pray] for volunteer teams that will come in." Then, see if God is leading you to respond through giving or going. You'll find links at our Featured Links Section.