Latest from Haiti earthquake - 'all children are now street children'

injured children.  picture: Christian Aid

injured children. picture: Christian Aid

"We are in great distress. We have no water reserves and gas stations are closed. There is no electricity. Here in Port-au-Prince things are difficult. We are in need of everything and will continue like this for some considerable time," declared Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti. The Pope's special envoy to the devastated country has taken responsibility for coordinating the Catholic Church's response to the disaster after the death in the earthquake of the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Archbishop Miot.

"Even the Vicar General of Port-au-Prince, Bishop Charles Benoit, and Chancellor Fr Cherie are still under the rubble. The Archbishop lived within a four-story building that also accommodated the offices of the Archdiocese, but it is now reduced to a pile of concrete," the Nuncio continued. "We have yet to verify the number of priests and religious men and women who have died, as there are still some to be recovered from under the rubble"

Amazingly, Archbishop Auza's house is one of those which is still standing and so Haitian bishops have been able to come together to coordinate the worldwide efforts of Catholics to help the people of Haiti in this enormous tragedy.

In his initial assessment tour, Archbishop Auza visited the Major Seminary, reduced to a heap of concrete, except for one building. Most of the priests and students were able to escape, although three or four seminarians are still missing, and nine have been confirmed dead. "I also visited the religious houses and centres, to observe the situation and to express the concern of the Holy Father. All are grateful and call for help for their members who are still buried in the rubble. We are trying to gather together the religious and priests."

The Archbishop's tour of Church resources has been an essential part of his assessment of the personnel available to offer help and support to the millions made destitute by the earthquake. Tragically, many of those who would have given themselves to help the people of Haiti are themselves amongst the dead and injured.

Part of the Archbishop's new and sad responsibility is to maintain communication with Cor Unum and with Missio, keeping both organisations fully-informed of the needs on the ground.

Missio, the Catholic Church's official body for the support of the Church in the developing countries, was already present in Haiti for many years before the earthquake struck the country that has known a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, civil unrest and natural disasters. In 2009 Missio gave more than £286,000 in support, assisting the work of the Church in basic and preventative healthcare, education, pastoral care and building projects, including major reconstruction in Port-au-Prince after massive flooding in May 2009. Already, since the earthquake, Missio has sent £160,000 to Archbishop Auza to help the people who are worst affected by the tragedy.

Missio-USA has launched the Haitian Solidarity Fund, a special fund for long-term assistance for the Church in Haiti, to continue responding to the needs of the country in the wake of this natural disaster.

Missio-England and Wales will send donations from this country directly to Archbishop Auza. Across the world, its 120 national offices are doing likewise.

Mgr John Dale, for Missio in England and Wales, said: "Missio has always supported the Church in Haiti, helping it to grow and develop in its own distinctive way. Missio is not an emergency aid organisation, but just as we have been present for the Haitians in the past, we need to remain there for their future as they try to reconstruct their homes and lives."

The Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) are also busily coordinating their efforts and resources; James Stapleton is their Communications Coordinator. Speaking from Rome on behalf of JRS, he explained: "We are similar to Missio insofar as we are there for the long-haul and not just for the crisis. We'll be there for years after the emergency services and the UNHCR have left. Our role is to respond quickly to the emergency, and to help people rebuild hope after the immediate emergency is over. 'We've only about 20-25 Jesuits in Haiti," James explained, "and so far, we've not been able to establish direct contact with them. There are Jesuits in the neighbouring Dominican Republic so we can communicate with them. However, because the earthquake broke most lines of communication, we're also working through other contacts in Latin America. We're fortunate because we can call on the massive experience of the Jesuit Social Apostolate, which has its headquarters in Rome. We can effectively coordinate our actions."

The Salesians, an order of priests, brothers and Sisters with world-renowned experience in teaching and working with poor and
under-privileged young people, have been severely affected by the earthquake. Their collapsed National School of Arts and Trades at Port-au-Prince still buries more than 200 students and Salesians.

Previously, they had offered services of all kinds for 25,000 of Haiti’s poorest children. Now they face the heart-rending realisation that "all children in Port-au-Prince are street children."
The Camillians, a 450 year-old order of priests and brothers dedicated to the care of the sick and dying, have a children's hospital in Port-au-Prince. It was seriously damaged by the earthquake. The doctors and Sisters who normally cater for up to 100 patients now have over 400 injured and traumatized children to care for and the number is growing.

"Haiti was a poor country even before the earthquake. Now we are desperate." Fr Lovera, the Director of the hospital explains: 'Everything is destroyed, flattened to the ground. It is not known how many survivors there are... There is no food, there is no water and it is really a tragedy."
Mgr John Dale spoke for Missio worldwide: "Missio will stand alongside the Church in Haiti as it attempts to restore some sense of normality to shattered lives. We will be there as the Religious Orders, who were already ministering to the poor, struggle to attend to the needs of millions with greatly-reduced resources. We will be there for as long as the people of Haiti need us and for however many years it takes." 

You can donate to the Church in Haiti through Missio. For further information, please phone 020 7821 9755 or e-mail Monsignor John Dale at: or visit for website donations.

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