7.2 magnitude earthquake rocks Haiti
Gia Riney, Director Communications, NPHI
As widely reported, a group of 17 missionaries from the nonprofit organization Christian Aid Ministries was kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday, 16 October. A local powerful gang quickly took credit for the crime and has since demanded a ransom of US$1 million per victim. The impact of this latest atrocity is felt across the capital city and the world.
Here is a firsthand account from St. Damien and the NPFS Special Needs Program. Please continue to pray for our courageous NPFS Haiti family and our sister organization St. Luc.
St. Damien Pediatric Hospital: Open for the time being
“The situation is worsening amid a severe fuel shortage. We were ready to announce that we would close everything Tuesday [tomorrow] if we could not replenish our tanks. In a recent development, we have managed to stay open until Friday. We remain hopeful that the situation will improve a bit in the meantime.
UNICEF promised a small quantity of diesel that we have not yet received. We need thousands of gallons of fuel for just one week of operations for both St. Luc and St. Damien to power our common energy grid. We have some hope, but the situation is very difficult.”
NPFS Special Needs Program: Enduring daily dangers
“We have closed Ste. Germaine. It is too dangerous for parents to bring their children to school. Last Thursday, roads were blocked with barricades and burning tires. Parents had to borrow money to pay exorbitant prices for moto-taxis. Staff had to do the same to get home; all were extremely traumatized by the experience.
Therapists and teachers in Kay Christine and Ste. Helene who come from town had to walk most of the way home on that Thursday, navigating burning barricades and burning tires. It took them between four and six hours to get home. The following day, they stayed home.
Today again they did not come to work; no fuel means no public transport. It is a mess. Food prices are sky high. A member of staff was telling me of a pregnant neighbor who was in labor but could not find transportation to get to a hospital. After a day of suffering greatly, she delivered the baby at home.
We have not had city electricity in our facility in months. One generator is dead and the other has limited capacity. The antenna onsite is down due to dead batteries that cannot be charged without electricity or a generator, making external communication difficult to impossible.
I am not a doom-and-gloom person but things are very fragile now. We have enough food and cooking gas, but one hopes this does not go on too long. Everyone is feeling the stress and doing their best to keep going. Morale is very low.
The sun is shining, the clothes are drying, and the kids are smiling, so these little things are blessings—big blessings.”
Executive Directors of NPH Haiti and the St. Luke Foundation
The organizations Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs and St. Luke Foundation are pleased to announce that our employee, Mrs. Marie Ange Beril, who was kidnapped on Tuesday 7 September 2021, has been released safe and sound. As a result, the two institutions resume their respective activities.
Both organizations are deeply relieved and heartily grateful that Marie Ange is safe and back with her family and her NPH family.
While strongly condemning these acts of repetitive kidnappings, Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs joins the St. Luke Foundation in asking the competent authorities to take the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of each citizen and the protection of our property.
Executive Directors of NPH Haiti and St. Luke Foundation
The NPH Organization announces that one of its staff, Mrs. Marie Ange Beril, was kidnapped on Tuesday, September 7, 2021. She is the Director of the Saint Anne home, an entity of the said institution which welcomes children—small orphan children in our country from 0 to 6 years old and disabled children neglected by their relatives.
Mrs. Marie Ange Beril, is an ex-pupil and has been working with us for a dozen years. She is a dedicated, honest, and sensitive employee who makes it her duty to care for the children in her care with love and compassion. We strongly condemn this act perpetrated against our collaborator and demand her unconditional release.
As a result, the organization NPH is closing all its institutions in the country:
- Saint Damien Hospital in Tabarre (except for cases of extreme emergency);
- The Saint Germaine Center for the disabled in Tabarre;
- The Therapy Service of Sainte Germaine;
- The Fr. Wasson Angels of Light (FWAL) school in Tabarre;
- The Saint Hélène school in Kenscoff.
Dr. Jacqueline Gautier
Saint Damien Hospital
Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs
Mr. Kenson Kaas
Programmes de Vie
Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs
Fr. Leo Richard Frechette
Fondation St Luc
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the southern side of the country couldn’t have come at a worse possible time, just as a category 5 storm is forecasted, as we mourn the death of our late president, and unsure about the future of political stability in the country. During the same night, the tremors were so strong that we were forced to have our children sleep outside in the cold. On Monday all relief efforts had to stop due to the Storm Grace passing. People had no homes to stay in and makeshifts tents blown away by the wind.
This earthquake brought with it unwanted memories of the January 2010 earthquake. With the death toll rising by the day, it is clear that this earthquake will leave more emotional scars in our hearts. In 2010, I was young and dedicated to help those affected, especially children. I helped set up the FWAL (Father Wasson Angels of Light) outreach Program, which provided basics needs to more than 2,500 children. Strategically, as the program grew, we built a local school to provide subsidized education and scholarships to those children. We always focus on making sustainable decisions to help those in need during times like this. We depend on the support of our partners and donors to make a significant impact in the lives of those in need; we help put them on a path to success. It is always a happy day when I see one of the children who started as part of our program in 2010. 11 years later, they are grown up and study at universities.
While basic needs such as water, food, and temporary shelter are necessary, we also need to focus on the future of those affected. When someone receives more food than they need, they start selling the surplus. The same goes if they receive too many water bottles, they start using it to bathe or wash clothes with it. The worst of this is that after two years, the same person is still left needing support to rebuild back their life. We have been doing this long enough to understand the impact of providing tools to people to help them succeed in their lives. It is also clear now that Haiti is a hotbed for natural disasters, so we need to make more sustainable decisions to help our brothers and sisters in this very difficult time.
We continue to help many families in Les Cayes, more specifically in Tubiron. We have given away clothes and construction materials such as roof-sheet-metal, nails, lumbers, raincoats, rechargeable lights, etc. We have also given away medical emergency kits and used part of our internal food reserve to give away a month’s worth of food supplies, such as rice, beans, cooking oil, salt, sugar, butter, etc. While we are providing the basics needed to help the people affected to survive the next month, but we do hope to provide a more sustainable help. Here are what want to continue doing this week:
- Identify those in need of a permanent house while we are giving away basic supplies and building trust in the communities where we help.
- Continue supporting the families of our employees and hermanos mayores (Elder Brothers) who are in the affected areas.
- Help to repair eligible houses and build new houses for a selected number of residents in the areas where we are providing our support.
Gia Riney, NPHI Director Communications
Marie Bénicia Benoit has been freed. She was released this morning in good health. She is now resting with her family.
The relief felt by the St. Damien team, as well as all our Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs (NPFS) Haiti family, is immense. The fervent prayers of many people have been answered. We all feel gratitude at Bénicia’s release and her safe return.
Amid our gratitude for answered prayers, we must not forget that this was a criminal act. Bénicia is the victim of a heinous crime that terrorized her family and all those who know her and love her. The effect of this act of terror reached to the very ends of our NPH family across the globe.
Kidnappings continue in Haiti. Our entire Haiti family are potential victims, either intentionally or by random happenstance.
We thank our global community—the extended NPH Family—for your continued prayers and support.
Géhy Jean Noel, Assistant National Director
I recall the day 12 January 2010, when I experienced an earthquake for the first time in my life while living at the Ste. Helene home, in Kenscoff with my NPH siblings. It was not easy at all, as you can imagine. We have lived through death.
Yesterday (19 August), I traveled to the south of Haiti, more precisely to Les Cayes, motivated by the urge to help the earthquake victims. However, I was also carrying a lot of fear in my stomach caused by the insecurity in the Martissant and Fontamara areas which lie en-route to the south. I was accompanied by people who were really afraid of the bandits living in these areas. But as missionaries, we took the risk.
Our first obstacle was the transport, which consisted of a St. Damien Hospital ambulance that would keep us secure and enable us to travel as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it broke down on the way, but we did all that was necessary to keep moving forward.
Along the side of the road from Aquin commune leading to Les Cayes (approximately 60 miles), there were barricades erected by people seeking support, especially around St. Louis du Sud. We have met many people, a truly sad and terrible amount of testimony beyond human comprehension. I visited neighborhoods where 80% of the houses were totally destroyed. We saw victims lying in the streets, the desolation in their eyes could be seen, an enormous desolation.
I too suffered personal loss: my uncle died under the rubble. Despite all the efforts to clear the space where his house was located, his body has not yet been found.
He was a good person and was loved by the family. We are left in tears; it’s not always easy to accept losing someone you love, but God in His goodness may have mercy on him and accept him on his side.
We don’t need to ask questions. We can all see their faces, everything is already explained in relation to the surroundings.
The worst part of all of this is that hurricanes are forecasted for Haiti. The need is high and more than urgent. They urgently need medical care, tents, iron sheets, firewood, cosmetics, water and food. We already have a place reserved for a temporary shelter, so we would like to act before the storm hits.
We already have volunteers waiting for us on site. We think that this weekend we should go to Les Cayes to bring our help, as well as to do training workshops and also to try to give hope to the victims.
We need you. Haiti needs your help!
Help make these people smile again, save a person with a simple gesture.
Dr. Jacqueline Gautier and Fr. Richard Leo Frechette
The Nos Petits Frères et Sœurs – NPFS and The St. Luke Foundation for Haiti (FSL), learned with dismay of the kidnapping of their employee, Ms. Marie Bénicia Benoit, which occurred this morning in the Santo 19 area of Port-au-Prince, while she was going at work.
Ms. Benoit is a dedicated Laboratory technician and a loyal collaborator at NPH Haiti St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and the Manitane Prenatal Clinic in St. Luke for the past fifteen years. Even as the situation in the country continues to deteriorate, this umpteenth kidnapping comes to further stain the self-sacrifice and work in the service of others, as embodied by Madame Bénicia and by the medical staff in general.
The organization NPH and the St. Luke Foundation therefore unanimously condemn this heinous act and demand the unconditional release of their employee, Madame Benoit.
As a result, the NPH Organization is closing all its institutions in the country:
- St. Damien Hospital in Tabarre (except for cases of extreme emergency);
- The St. Germaine Center for the disabled in Tabarre;
- The therapy service of St. Germaine;
- The Fr. Wasson Angels of Light School: FWAL in Tabarre;
- The School of St. Helene in Kenscoff.
The St. Luke Foundation in Solidarity informs that only Emergencies will be received at St. Luke Hospital while the activities in satellite clinics will remain closed.
These institutions will remain closed until the unconditional release of Madame Benoit.
Gia Riney, NPHI Director Communications
A 7.2 magnitude earthquake occurred near Haiti early this morning, Saturday, 14 August. The earthquake was about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud and 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The number of casualties is expected to be high.
Local NPH leaders report that NPH properties, including our homes, hospital, and special needs program facilities are undamaged. Our staff, children, and other beneficiaries are safe. Areas in the south of the country, however, are devastated.
We ask the global NPH community to keep our Haiti family—Program de Vie, St. Damien, St. Germaine, and our partner organization the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti—in your thoughts and prayers.
Nicholas Rogers, NPHI Communications Manager
The Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his residence in the early hours of Wednesday 7 July, which has also left his wife Martine Moïse hospitalized with serious wounds. She has since been evacuated to a hospital in Miami.
The interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph confirmed the killing, calling it a “heinous, inhumane and barbaric act”. Authorities initially declared a nationwide “state of siege” lasting 15 days, but this has since been reversed and there is now a power struggle for the Prime Minister position, which has caused yet more political turmoil.
Haitians have taken to the streets in protest and barricaded streets. Meanwhile, there have been a number of arrests linked to killing of President Moïse.
The assassination has left the Haitian population in a state of shock and widespread anxiety who in recent months have also endured violent protests, gang activity, kidnappings, soaring inflation and a growing number of COVID-19 cases.
The National Director, Kenson Kaas, confirmed that the children and population with disabilities in our residential programs, consisting of almost 880 beneficiaries, are safe and secure, with caregivers are working longer hours to maintain the calm. Children and youths in the community programs have been advised to remain home, with the FWAL (Father Wasson Angels of Light) remaining closed for the time-being.
Doctor Jacqueline Gautier, Director of St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, says, “The staff who worked that night continued the next day, and the administration staff remained home, due to the insecurity on the streets. The crisis committee at the hospital is monitoring closely the situation in order to keep the essential services functional for the children and the mothers. Of course, everyone is very worried and we don’t know what is going to happen.
“There is also a shortage of fuel in Haiti, which has caused prices to skyrocket. This may continue since the insecurity created by the gang activities in the South Capital neighborhoods is hampering the transportation from the harbor. We need fuel for our ambulances and to run the hospital. Without it, we have serious problems to serve our population and treat patients.”
We appreciate your thoughts and prayers during these difficult times in Haiti and for the NPH Haiti family.
Damarie Egide Voight, St. Damien Hospital Communication Officer
Haiti has descended into hell since its tourism boom of the 1980s. Haitians lost their political stability long ago, even before the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed approximately 250,000 people, causing considerable damage to the country’s infrastructure. In recent years, the fragile political landscape has deteriorated, coupled with increasing violent crime and civil unrest. This instability is on top of Haiti’s social ills. According to World Bank 60% of Haiti’s 11.26 million population live in poverty. The overall insecurity also plagues those who do not live in poverty.
Haitians have a lot of issues on their minds nowadays. Some current problems include the threat of violence every time they leave the house due to gangs and juvenile delinquency, the lack of access to quality healthcare, and the scarcity of social justice and transparency. The national government faces frequent, sometimes violent, protests from the opposition, which often results in barricaded streets causing a lack of mobility. Another concern is the devaluation of the Haitian currency, the gourde, against the United States dollar, which has impacted NPH Haiti St. Damien and other organizations throughout the country.
Kidnappings is also a constant fear. The list of people who have been held hostage, some raped, tortured, humiliated, or executed even after payment of the ransom, continues to grow. The streets of Port-au-Prince, a metropolitan area of over 2.5 million, are becoming empty. Instead, their fear now holds them hostage at home.
Haiti’s kidnapping phenomenon began between 2004-2006. In the following years, there was an apparent decline, with only isolated cases. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence which has now turned into a flourishing industry that has enriched the country’s gangs and mafia networks.
Kidnappings increased alarmingly in 2020, with 234 cases reported in 2020. According to the Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research, 25 cases of kidnapping were reported in March 2021, compared to 50 in February 2021 and 65 cases in January 2021. However, the exact figure is unknown as there seems to be a large silent majority of victims who prefer not to speak publicly about their experience due to reprisals and fear of the criminals.
Some victim’s families are left in permanent debt with no escape from poverty. Cohesion in the community has eroded and the psychological scars will impact future generations. The criminality has also led to an exodus of Haitians leaving the country in search of a better future. Infighting between police authorities only escalates the problem. Meanwhile, anti-government protests and strikes are the weapons Haitians use to demand justice every day but to whom? The national government seems to remain deaf to their requests.
IMPACT ON ST. DAMIEN PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL
While the security situation remains volatile, everyday life becomes more unworkable for the general population. Haiti’s problems, unfortunately, are also impeding the proper functioning of NPH’s St. Damien Hospital. In times of trouble, the hospital is faced with real problems that require immediate responses. As Haiti experiences more impromptu crises, no one can predict when the next emergency will strike.
Currently, St. Damien’s medical staff are having to work 24-hour shifts. This means that the hospital must provide them with accommodation on the hospital grounds, as they are unable to make it home due to the insecurity. This places a heavy burden on the hospital’s already limited resources. Also, the hospital needs to provide safe transportation for its employees. Its ambulances are used for this purpose, an additional cost due to increased fuel usage and vehicular wear, which during the recent lockdown, has cost the hospital approximately US$3,570. The ambulances are still needed for emergencies as well.
On top of the growing costs, the hospital is also struggling with other challenges. There is difficulty in obtaining medication and other vital equipment and materials. The overall stress impacts the performance of the overworked staff who have to carry out important procedures. Many skilled workers are leaving the country as the insecurity escalates. Fewer patients are going to the outpatient clinics, which means many people are not getting the necessary medical care. However, emergency cases are rising.
So far, St. Damien Hospital has not been directly attacked. However, gunshots are frequent in the Tabarre area of Port-au-Prince. Staff sometimes passes the remains of burning barricades as they return home from a shift. Employees are afraid to speak on the record about the problems, preferring to remain anonymous due to potential reprisals.
A nurse describes how fearful he/she is when out on the streets, saying, “It’s really hard to find the exact words about the impact the country has had on my life. I’m afraid of the long-term consequences. It stresses me out a lot, especially since I was once assaulted.”
The nurse continues, “If I am in the streets late and on foot, I constantly look over my shoulder in fear. I have become suspicious of everyone I know. In the morning when I go to work, I am always alone in the car. I have to drive at fast speeds, which risks an accident, but it keeps me safe from any potential kidnapper.
“I’m still energized, but the hardest part is that we are powerless and we can’t do anything about it. The state and police cannot do much. Our only recourse, our great strength in this fight, is God. So far, only He can guarantee our protection and security.”
Another employee, who also prefers to remain anonymous, says, “The Haitian police, who ought to guarantee our safety, are powerless to stop the insecurity we experience daily. We young Haitians who dreamed of a better Haiti are ashamed of these people connected to the gangs, who don’t care how their actions impact the Haitian population in such a destructive way.
“We have entered into a decaying phase, where the doors of our schools and churches are forced to stay closed, even for entertainment events. I live with despair, I feel that stress is slowly killing me. Despite the efforts made to improve my living conditions in Haiti, I feel that this will come to nothing. I’m really sick of it,” concludes the employee.
CURRENT NEEDS AT ST. DAMIEN HOSPITAL
Right now, the needs at St. Damien Hospital are mostly structural. As always, there is a need for tools and personal protective equipment. However, there are also other urgent needs, such as getting a new generator to deal with blackouts, the expansion of the operating suite, renovations to the sanitary block, building a mortuary, updating the computer and telecommunications system, updating the time clock system, obtaining an air purifier, rebuilding the waste disposal system, and setting up the backyard parking lot.
The hospital also needs to strengthen its security infrastructure due to the growing instability which exposes the hospital to various risks. Needed improvements include increasing the number of cameras, adding more lighting, and building reinforced fences.
St. Damien Hospital is currently the only pediatric hospital in the country. It receives patients from all areas of the country, is open 24 hours a day and every day of the week, always ready to offer quality care to all Haitians.