Aftershock rocks Haiti: Diocese expands its recovery role

As a major aftershock rocked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and Léogâne, more news emerged Jan. 20 about the growing role of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti in the country’s short-term relief efforts and long-term recovery.

The news included reports of babies being born and the loss of more people served by the diocese.

A magnitude 5.9 aftershock struck just after 6 a.m. local time about 35 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which had earlier in the day calculated the aftershock at 6.1 on the Richter scale. It was one of 28 temblors the USGS recorded up until 4:43 EST Jan. 20. A magnitude 6.0 quake is 10 times less in magnitude than a magnitude 7.0, such as the one that devastated Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area eight days ago.

The Haiti Nursing Foundation reported on its website Jan. 20 that three students from the diocese’s school of nursing in Léogâne died in their homes during the Jan. 12 quake that also destroyed 80 — 90 percent of the buildings in the main part of town.

That report came along with the news that six babies had been born at the makeshift hospital that has been operating at the school’s buildings since just after the earthquake.

The foundation reported that 27 members of a relief team from Japan, including four doctors and seven nurses, are now working at the school and sleeping in one of the dormitories. Members of Doctors Without Borders have also been treating people at the school and members of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti have fixed the school’s generator and are due to work on its water pump, nursing school dean Hilda Alcindor said on the foundation’s website.

She has said that she, the nursing students and the incoming medical personnel have treated at least 5,000 people since the quake. A tent city has sprung up in the open fields around the school. The school’s foundation also reported that the nursing students have set up 10 first-aid stations around Léogâne.

In addition, the foundation said, Chip Lambert, a doctor from the Medical Benevolence Foundation had arrived Jan. 19 with a stock of supplies.

The Medical Benevolence Foundation was already a partner with the nursing school as well as the diocese’s Hôpital Ste. Croix in Léogâne, a clinic on LaGonava Island, and St. Vincent School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince.

According to confirmed reports, included on CNN’s iReport here, at least six children and staff, and possibly as many as 10, were killed when one of the school’s buildings collapsed. Since then, the school has been robbed of materials, St.Vincent’s director, the Rev. Léon Sadoni said in the CNN iReport and elsewhere.

About 130 St. Vincent students are living at a survivor camp of about 3,000 that diocesan Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin, who was made homeless by the quake, established near College Ste. Pierre in downtown Port-au-Prince. Plans are being made to transfer the St. Vincent students to other living quarters.

Ste. Pierre, a diocesan primary school, was destroyed in the quake, as were at least three other of the diocese’s 254 schools, ranging from pre-schools to a university and a seminary. Another of the destroyed schools is the Holy Trinity complex of primary, music and trade schools adjacent to the demolished diocesan Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral) in Port-au-Prince. More than 100 of the diocese’s churches have been damaged or destroyed, Duracin has said.

The Rev. Canon Ogé Beauvoir, the dean of the diocese’s seminary and one of four Episcopal Church missionaries assigned to Haiti, has been assisting Duracin at the camp. He is working with the Jacksonville, Florida-based nonprofit FreshMinistries and its international arm, Be The Change International to help coordinate the Haiti portion of an effort to bring in doctors, medical technicians, translators and prescription medications.

BTCI issued a news release Jan. 19 that said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had asked it to help in the relief coordination. The Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee, chair of FreshMinistries and BTCI, has long-standing relationships with the Episcopal Church in Haiti and close ties with the Haitian government, according to the news release.

Be The Change Haiti will coordinate those efforts on the ground, the release said. Beauvoir, who also heads Be The Change Haiti, has thus far found nearly 40 Haitian physicians and 37 translators, the organization said. Beauvoir, who escaped harm during the earthquake, has offered the diocese’s school buildings for use in administering aid and coordinating further relief efforts.

Trinity Wall Street is also participating in the effort to gather personnel for the effort. Lee, BTCI’s chair, asked his friend and Trinity rector the Rev. James Cooper for help in locating French and Creole speakers, particularly those with medical backgrounds, who would be willing to help in Haiti. Trinity made the need known and about 50 people responded, according to Donna Presnell, Trinity assistant manager for public relations and promotion. She said the parish is awaiting further word from Lee and Be The Change.

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