In recent weeks, the Western Hemisphere has suffered two massive natural disasters with immense consequences for human life and economic development. On January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitue earthquake struck Haiti, devastating a nation that was already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. The earthquake's epicenter hit just 10 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, leaving the city in ruins. The Haitian government has estimated the death toll at over 230,000; according to press dispatches, another 300,000 people were injured and close to one million left homeless. The health crisis remains acute, as does the need for shelter.

Then, on February 27, 2010, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake—one of the strongest ever on record—struck just off the coast of Chile. The quake took hundreds of lives and devastated Chile's second largest city, Concepción. Tsunamis triggered by the earthquake only multiplied the loss of life and livelihoods. The damage to homes, buildings, and infrastructure is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

The Latin American Program joins the people and governments of Haiti and Chile in mourning these staggering losses, some of which struck us on a more personal level.

Two outstanding individuals with whom we were privileged to have worked died in the earthquake in Haiti.

Dr. Zilda Arns Neumann, a respected Brazilian pediatrician and founder of the Pastoral da Criança (Pastoral of the Child), received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in 2007 in São Paulo. For more information about Dr. Zilda Arns, click here.

Gerardo Le Chevallier, director of Electoral Assistance for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), perished in the collapse of the UN headquarters' building in Port-au-Prince. LeChevallier, a colleague with whom we worked for many decades in El Salvador and in Washington, D.C., had joined us for a 2007 conference on Haiti. To access Le Chevallier's remarks at the Haiti conference, click see here).

Information about financial contributions in support of earthquake reconstruction in Haiti and Chile can be found at numerous websites, including the following:

Embassy of Chile
Embassy of Haiti