Christian Agencies Respond to Jeanne's Lethal Aftermath In Haiti

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) reported Thursday that it would be partnering with Action by Churches Together (ACT), in its initial response to the devastation
( [email protected] ) Sep 24, 2004 08:56 PM EDT

The nonprofit relief agency of the United Methodist Church and an international alliance of humanitarian aid organizations will partner together in an effort to provide assistance for the flood victims of the besieged island nation of Haiti. The floods, spawned by Tropical Storm Jeanne, have left 1,160 dead and 1,250 missing.

Tropical Storm Jeanne, which has now strengthened into a hurricane that threatens Florida's Atlantic coast, proved deadly in Haiti, where more than 98 percent of the land is deforested and torrents of water and mudslides smashed down denuded hills and into the region.

According to news agencies, survivors were left with almost nothing after Jeanne devastated the region, burying unclaimed corpses in mud-clogged backyards and attacking aid trucks and even neighbors bringing them food.

Although the Civil Protection Office reports that the death toll in northern Haiti's flooding is at to 1,160, the toll is expected to continue to mount as rescuers make their way through mud, high water and debris they have not yet been able to search.

Meanwhile, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)—the nonprofit relief agency of The United Methodist Church—reported Thursday that it would be partnering with Action by Churches Together (ACT), in its initial response to the devastation.

ACT, the international alliance of humanitarian aid organizations, is currently assessing response options and reports that access to many of the affected areas is possible only by air, since roads are still under water. An assessment team has reportedly reached Gonaïves, where urgent needs include fresh water, food, emergency shelter, and medicines.

Meanwhile, United Methodist volunteers are at work on other projects in Haiti, in the Verrettes region, some 40 miles south of the most stricken parts of the island nation. UMCOR reports that an unreliable telephone system has stymied UMCOR leaders' efforts to contact officials of the Methodist Church of Haiti or United Methodist missionaries in Port-au-Prince. The relief agency expects to provide additional recovery assistance once the church there defines needs.

R. Randy Day, head of the denomination's mission agency, made an emergency stop in Haiti en route to a church meeting in South America. He planned to meet with Raphael Dessieu, bishop of the Haitian church, and with the U.S. consulate.

UMCOR, which has provided assistance in nearly 100 countries, reports that Haiti is especially vulnerable to mudslides because of extensive deforestation. Last May floods occurred when a river burst its banks, sending flood waters rushing through several poor neighborhoods and destroying hundreds of fragile homes on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. News reports at the time indicated that some of the dead were Haitians who had crossed the border to live and work. More than 3,000 people died in mudslides.

UMCOR urges assistance with current recovery efforts through gifts of money to its Hurricanes 2004 appeal, Advance #982410, marked Haiti-- by mail to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Donors wishing to use credit cards may call toll free 1-800-554-8583. Gifts of money enable specially trained disaster workers to minister in hard-hit areas, direct assistance, and purchase of relief supplies. UMCOR anticipates that long-term recovery from these severe storms will take several years.