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'There's a lot of memories coming back from 2010 earthquake': Christian charity says as aid efforts continue in Haiti

by Kelly Valencia

A Christian charity working in Haiti has told Premier the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the country earlier this month has brought back memories to many people who lost family members in the 2010 earthquake. 

Justin Dowds, the CEO of Compassion UK, said that in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake people are scared to sleep indoors if their house has not collapsed. 

"I remember that from the last earthquake when I was there. We had a structure that was sound, but none of us slept inside it. And they're still having aftershocks. Some are saying it's fairly regularly these aftershocks are coming," he said.  

More than 2,000 people are known to have died from the earthquake and 344 are still missing. As many as 2,700 have been left homeless.

But many victims are struggling to receive the aid being sent due to bad weather and gangs hijacking food distribution points. 

"The earthquake hit in a rural area so it's always going to be more challenging to access rural areas. There is one priority road in and out of the area most affected by this earthquake and there has been gangs who have been competing for this territory shall we say. I'm delighted to say that actually, over the weekend, reports are coming out that there's been some sort of truce and the gangs are now going to allow aid to flow freely. But there has been a challenge" Dowds continued. 

Compassion UK works with 91 churches in the affected area. At least 46 have suffered "significant damage to their structure" and 15 are "beyond repair". 

"Those 91 church partners actually look after the 17,000 compassion sponsor children. And in the immediate aftermath of a disaster like this, there are a number of challenges for children. A number of them become disconnected from their caregivers, or their parents for a whole host of reasons.

"We've started to look at trauma counselling through those local trips partners to really help the children begin to process what they've lived through. Also, children really need some sense of normalcy returning as soon as possible," Dowds continued. 

The UN estimates about 500,000 children now have limited or no access to shelter, safe water, and food. 

Dowds went on to encourage people to pray for people in Haiti. 

"I think it's really, really important that we do pray for all those who are involved in the relief effort, both from aid agencies that are now beginning to really ramp up Air support, but also the Haitian church leaders who are there. They've been there before in this situation and as the media even moves on, in a few weeks, there will still be there, this will be a rebuilding effort that will take many years. So we want to pray for them for their strength."

You can learn more about Compassion's work in Haiti here

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