Late in the evening on Thursday, March 19, the government of Haiti declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, closing its borders, imposing a curfew, and mandatory shutting of all schools, factories, places of worship and gatherings of more than 10 people. All ports, airports, and borders are effectively closed, outside of humanitarian aid, cargo, and emergency evacuations. At this point, there are two confirmed cases in the country.
By the grace of God, our leadership team and staff had prepared for this as well as possible, with us making the same decision for our organization on Wednesday, March 18. We rejoice the government is taking such an aggressive stance, as this virus carries the potential for disastrous outcomes for the people of Haiti. On Thursday morning, we enacted our emergency response plans for our staff and families we serve. The following have been implemented:
- Yesterday, we did an educational teaching time about the virus to help people understand what it is, how it spreads, and how to prevent spreading.
- All programming on and off-campus, including the School of Light, First 1,000 Days, P.E.T. cart deliveries, cement floors, communities Bible studies, and home food deliveries have been stopped until at least April 17. We will evaluate in a few weeks on our next steps.
- We are implementing a shelter-in-place strategy with our staff and we have recommended this to our families. The campus is on a 24/7 lockdown and will be completely closed off at this time.
- To help our staff and families with a shelter-in-place strategy, we distributed one month’s worth of food to each family.
- We also have pre-paid all our staff 1.5 months of salary, so they have cash in their hand now to make needed purchases.
- We will continue to manage our goat herd, as those guards are isolated at their location.
- We have added additional security on campus.
Right now, many of you reading this are being affected by the COVID-19 and I don’t want to minimize anyone’s fears, worries, and situation. I do want to share the realities of what this looks like for our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Social distancing is near impossible, as people do not have water, electricity, food storage, or toilets in their homes. Most food is purchased weekly at best and on most days, on a daily basis. There is no space for quarantine, as the average house size in our communities is 240 square feet and sleeps six people. For most, transportation is to walk, ride a motorcycle taxi with four people on it, or a tap-tap taxi with 15-20 people in a small space. People have to walk to the well or a water station for clean water. They have to shop in the local, crowded markets for food on a routine basis, as there is no freezer to store food in the long-term. As well, in Haiti, there is one doctor for every 10,500 people. Let that sink in for a moment. If people start getting sick, there is not a medical community to turn to for help.
We need to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world affected by this. I ask you to say a special prayer for the people of Haiti, who will need your prayers and support in the days, weeks, and months to come.
At Many Hands, we are called to transform together, to be love in action, in our broken world. This virus does not discriminate the rich from poor, old from young, white from black or anything in-between. In the words of Mother Teresa, may we remember we all belong to one another. There is no “us” and “them”, as we are all in this together. Lord, bend our lives back to be compassionate.
Even in times like these, the Truth we build our lives on has not been shaken. This Truth cannot be canceled or quarantined. We can make prayer an emphasis of practice and delight. We can be full of faith and live holy lives. We can be fruitful. We can choose to live for the sake of others. We believe that God is at work. And we believe that our home is in God and God alone. He will get us through this crisis together.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
Founder and Executive Leader, Many Hands for Haiti