The Treatment of Those Who Died in the Haitian Earthquake
The members of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association (NFD&MA), the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America (CFSA) and the Monument Builders of North America (MBNA) express their heartfelt sympathies to those affected by the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12. The associations? members also wish to express their deepest concerns over the treatment of those who died in the earthquake.
The Haitian government has taken control of the mortuary response in Haiti and has neither asked for nor authorized assistance from any government or private organization. The heart-breaking images of those who died being placed in mass graves are shocking, and the members of NFDA, NFD&MA, CANA, CFSA and MBNA believe the people of Haiti deserve better. They have lost so much and are experiencing a variety of emotions as they struggle to survive; seeing people who may be family or friends being put in mass graves only compounds their grief.
The associations are also worried about the fate of American citizens and individuals with dual Haitian and American citizenship who died in the earthquake. As of January 23, the Department of State reports that the identities of 45 American citizens who died in the earthquake have been confirmed. However, thousands remain missing. There are concerns that the remains of these missing individuals may be placed in one of the mass graves or may forever be lost in the rubble. The news story ?Relatives of Americans Missing in Haiti Angry,? from The Washington Post (http://bit.ly/6snn87), sheds light on the pain and anguish these families are experiencing.
Said NFDA member Michael Gunderud, of Krowicki-McCracken Funeral Home in Linden, N.J.: ?The events in Haiti have left many funeral directors eager to assist families ship identified remains to the United States. We have been called upon to fulfill a duty, yet remain helpless in our efforts. Such a situation should be addressed with aggressive action, and it [is] disheartening that [I am] unable to perform the duty that I was called upon to do.?
There is a tremendous willingness within the funeral service, memorialization and mass-casualty response communities in America ? both government resources, such as Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, and private resources, such as the hundreds of funeral directors who have volunteered to travel to Haiti ? to assist the Haitian government with the respectful treatment of the dead. The members of the funeral service, memorialization and mass-casualty communities are willing to help the Haitian government with all those who died in the earthquake ? regardless of citizenship ? so that, where possible, they can be returned to their families for a dignified funeral, burial and memorialization.
Funeral and deathcare professionals have stepped forward in a number of natural disasters ? from Hurricane Katrina to the earthquake and tsunami that impacted Southeast Asia ? and have reunited thousands of families with the remains of their loved ones, affording them the opportunity to have funerals or memorial services. The funeral service and memorialization community believes it can do this for Haiti, and all nations that saw their citizens die in the earthquake.
Funeral directors are entrusted to care for the living through the respectful and dignified treatment of those who died. The outpouring of humanitarian relief from the United States to the people of Haiti is to be applauded and admired, for it is desperately needed; however, in not taking swift action to care for those who died, this country fails to offer a fully compassionate response.
The members of NFDA, NFD&MA, CANA, CFSA and MBNA call on those in the federal government who are leading this country?s response in Haiti to take swift action by urging the Haitian government to allow the funeral service, memorialization and mass-casualty response communities in the United States and around the world to assist with the respectful and dignified treatment of those who died in the earthquake.
Please visit www.nfda.org/haiti for the latest news and information on the mortuary response in Haiti. This Web page will be updated daily or as new information becomes available.
Funeral service professionals interested in volunteering in Haiti may call the National Funeral Directors Association at 800-228-6332. NFDA staff is collecting contact information in order to keep interested parties abreast of ways they might be able to assist the federal government and funeral service professionals in Haiti, should their service prove necessary. NFD&MA members may call 800-434-0958 to place their name on their association?s volunteer list. MBNA members may call 800-233-4472 to place their name on their association?s volunteer list.
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