Milwaukee's Eyes on Haiti

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  • People affected by the earthquake in Haiti. | Photo: MSNBC

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Dr. Ron and Ronnie Pruhs, who have done service work in Haiti for years, on 620WTMJ's Wisconsin's Morning News

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI and MILWAUKEE - Untold numbers of people are trapped in rubble caused by the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years. The magnitude-7 quake struck Tuesday afternoon.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive tells CNN: "I believe we are well over 100,000," while leading senator Youri Latortue tells The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead. Both admit they have no way of knowing.

Meanwhile, a couple from Milwaukee who has taken a number of service trips there over the years is waiting for word about friends they have made in a nation with conditions where poverty would be considered an upgrade.

"Squalor is really the term. Often, people asks us to describe the poverty there. It's so difficult," said Ron Pruhs, the retired Chairman of Pediatric Dentistry at Marquette University.

"There was some hope recently as the country seemed to be emerging from misery into poverty. It's that level."

He and his wife Ronnie, a nurse, have worked for at least 15 years with a group called Our Little Brothers and Sisters.  They've provided dental and medical care for the children at the group's hospital and orphanage.

"There are so many places in Haiti that are in absolute squalor. They're just beginning to emerge, and now this is happening," said Ronnie.

They have read that the home they stay in when they do their work in pediatric dentistry there may have collapsed.

"There are two American volunteers that may be trapped in it," explained Ron.

They explain that there has been damage at the children's hospital where they volunteer in Port-au-Prince, a day facility for handicapped children and a technical school which is part of the organization.

It also has an outpatient and educational facility in the nearby town of Petionville, along with an orphanage.

"We have heard that the orphanage, there's some 350 orphans, and this is above Petionville, they're OK." detailed Ronnie. "They're safe. That's a blessing."

Ron and Ronnie also say they want to go down themselves and help, but they explain that being there could actually hinder things for those who live there in such squalor.

"We don't know about going," explained Ronnie. "The best thing we can do now is to try to raise money for the devastation."

That's because conditions there are so incredibly impoverished that meeting volunteers' basic needs would take away from the victims of the earthquake, and the victims of such poverty.

"I don't even know how the relief teams are going in there," said Ron. "They're going to have to bring their own accommodations. There's no place to stay. There's no water."

"There's no toilet facilities," explained Ronnie. "There's no food. We're anxious to go, but we would be more of a burden, I think, since they'd have to house and feed us."

Still, the demand for assistance is so great in general, and now, after a 7.0 earthquake with the potential for incredible human loss, Ronnie puts it best:

"They're going to need all the help they can get."