Omar, age 9, was injured after a wall fell on him during the recent earthquake in Peru. He is now living in a tent perched just outside his home.
Southern Peru The sound is a low, ringing rumble like someone repeatedly flinging two long metal sheets into the wind. It's just after dusk. Outside it's cold. A wet mist, the constant cloak of a Peruvian winter, hangs heavy in the air. Nine-year-old Omar Antonio Hernandez squirms in his room. He's scared. The walls of his adobe brick home crumble, falling like dust through a child's fingers.
He hears his mother in her room. Their rooms are separated by a small "brick" wall. The fragile bricks are fashioned from the sand that permeates this desert community just northeast of Ica, in southern Peru.
The rumble is ferocious. Everything in the house begins to shake. Beds collapse, their blue metal frames slamming to the floor. The metal house door is ripped off its hinges, crashing into a wall. The roof begins to separate, bricks are crumbling everywhere. And in his room Omar sees the unimaginable his wall begins to fall. He knows it's going to hit him.
"Momma, momma!" he screams. "Help me! Help me!" But his mother is also hurt. Chunks of her bedroom wall are missing. Sand bricks dissolve into rubble. And the small, three-room, dirt-floor dwelling Omar calls home begins to disappear. Underneath a pile of rubble Omar whimpers.
Poverty compounds tragedy
Omar and his family are among the nearly 100,000 Peruvians made homeless by the earthquake that struck on August 15. Nine Compassion-assisted projects, including the one Omar attends, were severely damaged. In addition, three other projects, including one near Lima, were also damaged.
The devastation is catastrophic. And the earthquake's aftermath becomes another impossible challenge added to the lives of children mired in desperate poverty.
Some homes destroyed will never be rebuilt. There is no State Farm hazard insurance in poor Peruvian communities. Children will be homeless and hungry in the coming weeks. There are no Wal-Marts to provide goods to replace lost kitchens and household possessions. And even if there were, there is little money to spare among farmers and day laborers who earn about U.S.$4 on a good day.
Basic necessities elusive
And scrapes and bruises that could be remedied with supplies from any American medicine cabinet will grow into serious health problems because there is no money, no physician available for medical treatment.
When your community is filled with unpaved sandy roads and an earthquake destroys them, getting basic necessities like medicines, clean water and even food becomes impossible. The result can be much worse than the initial emergency.
"There is a tremendous lack of safe water," says Dr. Miguel Quiroz, Compassion Peru Health Specialist. "Some families are drinking water from wells that are not safe. After the emergency passes, we will have to coordinate treatment for parasites and other diseases associated with drinking unsanitary water."
Omar is a perfect example of how poverty can compound tragedy.
Even though a wall fell on him, the child escaped serious injury. He has no broken bones and only scratches and bruises on his face, neck, head, knee and elbow. But poverty has slowed medical treatment for him. There was no ambulance to rush Omar to the hospital. Instead, his triage area is a makeshift tent just outside his crumbled home. Inside the tent, Dr. Quiroz is frustrated because a lack of simple supplies is thwarting his attempts to treat Omar's wounds.
"His health condition is stable," Dr. Quiroz says, "There is a possibility of an infection on his face. He needs daily treatment & (but) the precarious health conditions of the place, plus the lack of water, makes it difficult to cure the scratches on his face in an adequate way."
Compassion uses unique measures for relief
Because of failing infrastructure and the routine lack of resources, Compassion Peru has had to go to extraordinary lengths to provide relief for earthquake victims.
Compassion staffers flew to Arequipa, a large city in southern Peru, and bought supplies including water, food, and household items. They transported the supplies on a truck and traveled several hours into the disaster areas. On the way they faced many threats from looters and gang members.
But supplies were delivered and more are expected to be needed in the coming days. Using Compassion-assisted church partners in the affected areas as command centers, Compassion Peru staffers are currently helping more than 1,400 children and their families recover from the quake's damage.
Recovery effort expected to be long and costly
Even as Compassion Peru staff workers are heroically providing relief, the quake's aftermath is steadily unfolding. Victims are still reeling from the numerous aftershocks. The death toll has risen to more than 500. And hundreds of thousands must sleep in destroyed or damaged homes. Our staff expects recovery efforts to be costly, more than $1 million. You can help by giving to our Peru Earthquake Response Fund.
Below is a brief listing of damages to affected projects. Please continue to pray for Compassion Peru and all of our church partners in the affected areas.
- IEPP Parcona Student Center (PE-343), located in Ica. At least 32 houses of Compassion-assisted children have been destroyed. The families lack water, electricity and food.
- IDDP Parcona (PE-344), located in Ica. The front wall of the church that operates the project is cracked. There are about 32 houses destroyed, and the rest are cracked, risking falling at any time. The pastor's home is also cracked.
- Manantial (PE-345), located in Ica. Houses are cracked and destroyed; most are about to fall.
- Amor y Vida Student Center (PE-346), located in Ica. Pastor Alberto Iñ¯ ²eported all families are homeless and are sleeping in the streets.
- Jehová Širé “tudent Center (PE-362), located in Ica. Most of the houses in the community fell down, including the pastor's house. Many children have lost their homes.
- Luz Divina Student Center (PE-367), located in San Andres, Pisco, next to the ocean. It was seriously damaged by the earthquake. The walls of houses are cracked and some families are sleeping outside at a large coliseum. They lack water and electricity.
- Emanuel Student Center (PE-369), located in Chincha. We have received confirmation of cracked walls at the classrooms. The victims lack food supplies, electricity and water. Eighty percent of the children's houses have been destroyed.
- Manantial de Vida Student Center (PE-370), located in San Clemente, Pisco. The road is impassable. This is the most affected area. Our Compassion church partner endured the shake, but has cracked walls and floors. Eighty-percent of the children's houses are affected.
- Voz de la Esperanza Student Center (PE-371), located in Pisco. One of the walls of the project fell down. The victims need water and medicines.
- Misió® …speranza Student Center (PE-411), located in El Callao. A large wave triggered by the earthquake has caused much flooding in this area next to the ocean. The swell damaged 20 children's houses.
- Jiré¨ Student Center (PE-121), located in El Callao. The swell affected the four houses of Compassion-assisted children who live next to the beach.
- Casa de Dios Puerta del Cielo Student Center (PE-413), located in Lima. Nine children had their homes damaged and the area is lacking water and electricity.