It's been six weeks since a deadly earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, but that doesn't mean things are getting any easier for the tens of thousands of people who have fled the city to find food and shelter in rural areas. Fred Chalker, a Lake Worth antiques dealer who founded Living Water Ministries a decade ago to feed and educate children in Haiti's rural Northwest, says Living Water employees are reporting that the situation in the country is as dire as ever.
"The countryside is overloaded and overwhelmed with the thousands of people that have left PAP," Chalker wrote in an email. "All the villages were begging to please bring them some food so they can feed these people."
At Living Waters' school in Anse Rouge, Chalker says, attendance has increased by 103 children coming in from Port-au-Prince as residents flee the city. And worse, the seasonal rains have started. People have been living out in the open until now. "They have used sticks and sheets to make some type of shelter for themselves," he adds.
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Chalker quotes from the heartbreaking email he received from an American missionary:
"As the heavy rain and wind storm woke me up last night, all I could think about were the people in the outskirts of the city who, having lost everything, were now facing soaking rains. I could only imagine the condition of those 'tents' this morning. While visiting the field hospital at the airport in PAP the first night, I saw a tiny little baby girl who couldn't weigh more than 5 pounds, lying on a cot with both legs broken and in casts. I am told that when a mom is told that her injured child is ready for discharge that the mom panics as she doesn't know where she is going to take her child. They have lost everything and have been living at the hospital since the earthquake."
Living Water has been sending prepackaged meals to Haiti for years, distributing them once a day to children who attend the charity's schools. After the quake, they stepped up shipments. But even now, Chalker says, the first container of food is stalled at customs in the Dominican Republic. "They are extremely back-logged and overloaded with shipments, but we are praying that this container will be released by early next week," he says.
The charity also has a second container of food en route that Chalker says should arrive in about a week. And they are raising money for a third, fourth, and fifth container, which they will ship as donations come in to cover costs. Another container is being filled with nonfood items such as tents, water filter systems, and tarps -- that container is currently at the Palm Beach Baptist Church at 6201 S. Military Trail, Lake Worth.