PIH Haiti Program Coordinator posts from Boston:
Wednesday morning, a strong aftershock earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, temporarily shutting down operations at the general hospital in Port-au-Prince, as well as several other PIH sites outside the city. Since then additional smaller quakes continue to disrupt efforts on the ground.
Here's a quick update on our work in Haiti despite these challenges.
PIH's surgical teams continue to race against time to provide surgical care to earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince. Operating rooms at the central general hospital (HUEH) in Port-au-Prince are fully operational again after being temporarily evacuated on yesterday in response to the aftershock. PIH is still coordinating the relief efforts at HUEH and reports having 12 operating rooms opened 24 hours per day. Across the country, we have a total of 20 operating rooms up and running.
To date, PIH has sent 22 plane loads with 144 medical volunteers - orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical nurses and other medical professionals - and several thousand pounds of medical supplies to support the more than 4,500 PIH health care providers already in Haiti.
Despite these accomplishments, our teams throughout the country continue to report a great need for additional medicines (antibiotics, anesthesia and narcotics), medical equipment (anesthesia machines and x-rays), medical supplies (IVs, tubing, irrigating saline), and water.
"There are very sick people and too little space and time," reported PIH Women's Health Coordinator Sarah Marsh from our hospital in St. Marc. She added that we will lose more patients to infection in the coming days if we don't find additional medications, and explained that is only for lack of supplies - not patients - that the surgical team risks performing more operations. A volunteer orthopedist also working from St. Marc stressed that we will need full medical teams on site to manage dressings, skins grafts and other post operative care for another 6-8 weeks.
Our sites in the Central Plateau and the lower Artibonite are dealing with increasing numbers of patients and families seeking both medical treatment and refuge from devastated Port-au-Prince. Finding space and beds for post-operative care has become the next major challenge. In Cange, PIH's 104-bed facility is overflowing: the church is serving as a triage center and the school as a recovery room. People are arriving in Cange at all hours of the day and night; many simply have nowhere to go.
"Our houses were crushed and our businesses destroyed. So we came to Cange," said one man who arrived in a bus with 12 relatives, including his mother-in-law who was critically injured. In Belladaire, near the border with the Dominican Republic (DR), up to 1,000 people are camped out at PIH's hospital in temporary shelter, searching for family members and medical treatment. We expect that people will continue to return to the countryside, having lost their family, livelihoods, and homes in the capital city, and meeting the needs of this displaced population will be a major task in PIH's long-term rebuilding efforts.
Finally, recognizing that many of our own Haitian staff, who are working tirelessly to save the lives of others, have also lost their own families and friends, PIH is also developing a post-trauma mental health and social service program to serve both staff and patients.
The task ahead is a monumental one. And even as we heal wounds, mend broken bones, and provide basic necessities (food, water, shelter), its true magnitude grows before our eyes. But we know from 20-plus years of accompaniment the resiliency of the Haitian people. Through poverty, strife, hurricanes, disease and hunger, our Haitian friends and colleagues continue to amaze us. Their determination, spirit, and ability to overcome and survive is inspirational and humbling.
Partners In Health is determined to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to ensure that their struggle succeeds.
With your help, we know we will be able to do so.
Haiti Program Coordinator