By Franklin Graham
As America celebrates Thanksgiving today, Haiti will celebrate, well . . . not much. Having spent my adult life doing relief work in a hundred countries I don’t believe I have ever seen a people suffer so much in one year as the nearly 10 million Haitians have since a 7.0 earthquake in January ripped open what was already one of the poorest nations on the planet, killing perhaps 300,000 in a matter of minutes.
Today, a nation without a single sewage treatment plant is fighting for its life against an outbreak of cholera that has claimed nearly 1,200 lives and hospitalized 17,000 more in just the past few weeks. While 300 million Americans indulge ourselves with turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie and watch football games, 9.8 million Haitians are literally living through hell on earth.
(Franklin Graham on a trip to Haiti to review the Samaritan’s Purse relief efforts.)
Making the cholera epidemic even sadder is the fact that it is absolutely treatable, but the supplies are not readily available in the country. Treatment requires Ringers Lactate IV fluids and rehydration salts. A solution requires something else–a massive and immediate coordinated international relief effort.
On top of all of this, the country is crippled by one of the most corrupt governments on the face of the earth. Tons of aid, vital medicines and relief supplies routinely get stuck in customs, delaying the treatment even further.
Yes, there’s little to be thankful for in this country, about the size of Massachusetts, just a few hundred miles off our shores.
So what’s next? The World Health Organization believes there will be a two percent infection rate–200,000 people (a number we and other relief organizations believe is low)–which could lead to thousands of deaths. It takes about eight liters of Ringers Lactate fluids to treat each case of cholera; so we’ll need 1.6 million liters of the life-saving fluid.
The U.N. and the United States have already provided some IV fluids and salts to the Haitian Ministry of Health, yet they have refused to make it available to most relief organizations that are carrying the brunt of the response to this crisis.
Government corruption and ineptness in Haiti is only compounded by virtue of trying to hold elections in a week. A vendor in the country is sitting on 90,000 bags of the precious fluid but won’t sell it to groups like ours to administer it, evidently holding out for more money.
Our organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has ceased all other relief projects and put our 300 staff members in action to deal with the cholera outbreak, barely a month old. We’ve had to use chartered aircraft to stock our supply chain, enabling us to treat more than 2,000 cholera patients in recent weeks and many more this Thanksgiving.
As hopeless as Haiti seems right now, there are four things that would help noticeably and immediately. One, the international community can increase the level of emergency response to Haiti. Two, President Barak Obama could immediately authorize a massive airlift of supplies and IV fluids, adding serious muscle to round-the-clock relief efforts. It will take the U.S. Air Force to get it to the people quickly enough. Three, Haitian authorities should immediately implement an expedited customs clearance process to allow relief supplies into the country.
Finally, why God would allow the people of Haiti to suffer so much and the United States to prosper is beyond my understanding and one of the mysteries of this life. As we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I would call on Americans to pray for the people of Haiti. God is certainly able to do abundantly more than we can ask or think, and I’m asking Him to remember the people of Haiti. With His blessing, maybe–just maybe–the people of Haiti will be able to join us one day giving thanks to God for his favor.