Haiti (MNN) – Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, easily one of the most significant natural disasters that the small Caribbean nation survived.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck 15 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital. The disaster affected an estimated three million people and killed hundreds of thousands. Ten years and billions of dollars of aid later, there’s little noticeable improvement.
What happened to the money?
Eva DeHart of For Haiti With Love voices what is a common belief in Haiti. “The major part of the funds that went in to correct those problems were (skimmed) off, and Haiti never got them. So they never had the resources to do the rebuilding.” She’s quick to add, “That’s not a Haitian government corruption when it comes to the money that was given, and says Haitians blame some of the foundations and NGOs for misappropriation.
Tent cities faded away around the edges, so doesn’t that mean some reconstruction efforts succeeded? DeHart explains that repairs came “…privately, and by mission groups that were already down there working in the area who just doubled up on their fundraising to fix their area of destruction. ”
Landmark buildings like the Notre Dame l’Assomption cathedral and the presidential palace are still in ruins. “What was destroyed, the people who originally had it, if they came up with the funds, it has been fixed. Otherwise, (it) probably never will be.” DeHart went on to say that “Port au Prince will always look like it had a major earthquake. It’s functioning around what it can’t fix.” A quarter-million homes and 30,000 commercial buildings that collapsed or were severely damaged remain shells.
The other side, revealed
The rubble stands as a testament to the poverty of the nation, but also the resilience of the people. In the hours after the quake struck, someone organized the evacuation of survivors on buses. For Haiti With Love runs a burn clinic, among other ministry projects. DeHart says their ministry team, headquartered in Cap Haitien (in the north) “handled a lot of people who were brought up with injuries.”
Over the next few days, the buses kept coming, but there was no plan to help them in Cap Haitien. “They were in shock from the earthquake, and they had no place to go home. They just brought them up north and let them out and took the buses back down for more people.”
Folks in Cap Haitien rose to meet the need, remembers DeHart. “Some of them had relatives up there. Others just found people who were compassionate enough to take them in. The ones that were injured, they brought up to the clinic, and we treated them until they were able to function again, and they were off back into the population.”
Gospel seeds planted in Haiti
It was one of the bright spots in a story filled with darkness and grief. Although you might expect that the streets of Cap Haitien were full of homeless survivors, DeHart says that didn’t happen. Cap Haitien became a healing point in the story. She says that many of those who opened their homes were followers of Christ. “It shows the heart of compassion of even the poorest of the poor, to see a situation where someone has lost their home and absolutely everything; you take what little you’ve got, and you spread it just a little bit thinner, and you make someone comfortable.”
Many anniversary stories focus on Haiti’s recovery failure; others focus on the restoration that began with a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. DeHart says those were seeds planted. “It was just a loving setting that kept people from being homeless and gave them hope in a situation where they had just had all hope destroyed.” Keep praying as ministries like For Haiti With Love strive to bring the hope of Christ to Haiti. Pray as they do more with limited funds; in spite of the challenges, pray for wisdom and creativity as they find ways to advance the Gospel. Pray for transformation.
(Photo credit Flickr/CC/UN Photo/Marco Dormino)