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Earthquake relief effort – setting up hospital and logistics

Posted by rightsbasedhaiti on January 15, 2010

People are asking me what has happened so here is an up to date.  I was in the province where I live (Commune Anse Rouge) when the quake struck.  I was hosting two public health students from John Hopkins, a Haitain American who was considering working with my new organization, and the husband of a friend of mine who is a former producer from CBS named Frank.

After the quake we saw on the internet that PAP was badly affected.  Frank’s wife is  afriend of mine who lives in PAP at the Norwich Mission House.  We called her using my skype connection to see if she was ok.  She answered the phone and said that the house had fallen on her and that she was trapped inside.  Then the phone was cut off and we could not again reach her.  We all loaded the car with our things, including my dog, DixiePeanutWonderdog, and we made the five hour drive to PAP.  When we got here the streets were filled with people.  They were singing among the wreckage.  You could see many dead and many more struggling to dig people out from wreckage.

We had to pass several other places on the way to the Norwich House.  Our first destination was to get John, the Haitian American, to his house to see his wife to make sure that she was ok.  We made it through fine although the raoad was covered with toppled buildings and downed power lines, and people laying together in the streets to get away from falling houses.  John’s family was safe.  We headed back up the road toward the house where I stay when I am in portoprens.  That house is also a school for 200 students who live in the slum up the river.  That house also has four adopted children and four orphaned teenagers.  It is “Kay Didi” where a female monk from ANanda Marga lives and cares for people in the neighborhood.  I was terrified that the house, which is at the bottom of a ravine, would have fallen.  We could not make it up the street because many of the houses had fallen in the middle of the road.  Destroyed vehicles were everywhere and part of the road had fallen down the side of the mountain.  We left the car and climbed down the ravine on foot.  All of the children and all of the others who live at the house were sleeping outside.  The house was still there.  All were safe.  I left DixiePeanut Wonderdog with the kids and we headed up to find Jillian at the Norwich Mission House.

When we arrived at the Mission House, Jillian was stilltrapped under the house.  Her staff, all of whom I know well, were working tirelessly to dig her out.  Because there were so many people trying to get her out, I took the med students, one of whom is already a doctor to the streets to see if we could be of assistance.  There were so many people that needed help.  On that small street alone there were probably 400 wounded and we didn’t even walk the whole street!  But there was little that we could do with no medicine and no tools.  It was very difficult because the hospitals would not take any more patients and people were dying in front of us.  There was nothing we could do.  We went back to the house and just then they dug Jillian out from under teh rubble.  After her they dug out Chuck, the other director. Both were fine although Chuck was very banged up.

At that point we tried to rest so that we could get to work in the morning.  It was about 3am.  There was no sleeping, though because the wailing, the singing, the crying and the tremors continued all night.  In the morning the streets were bustling and the wailing was fierce.  I took all of the americans that we had with us to the US embassy.  Jillian and her husband frank wanted to go back to the US.  Jillian let me use the Land Cruiser from the Norwich Mission House as Demeter Russafiv (coordinator for AMURT-haiti) and I began devising our coordination strategy for the disaster.

We had no communications – no internet or phones.  Demeter and I coordinated emergency relief efforts in 2008 for the gonaives disaster and so we are used to working in these situations. However, the problem that we had now is that there were no communications, no phones or internet and all of our equipment – trucks, gas, tools, motorcycles, were back in the commune.  So i hopped in the newly borrowed land cruiser and drove to the commune to ask our community in commune anse rouge for help and to get suppies.  when i got to sources chaude i had internet so i began coordinating with the organizations that I work with in haiti.  I started coordinating with melinda from Konpay and Beyond Borders as well as my AMURT partners.  There I found that volunteers for AMURT in the US had coordinated many medical staff and supplies that were ready to come to Haiti on a plane.  They need to knwo where to go.  At that point, every one started contacting me trying to figure out how to help.  Melinda Miles and I discussed our strategy and decided that the best strategy is to get people out of the city and to keep the provinces alive by transporting the food from the provinces to the cities.  immediately i met with the grassroots leaders in the commune and they started working on a strategy to prepare teh community to recieve families from the city.

After gathering supplies and meeting community leaders, I left for PAP today afternoon.  Through my discussions with melinda we decided to create three bases so far and are creating more.  I am writing now from one of those bases in PAP, the MAthew 25 house where they have turned the soccer field next to the guesthouse into a triage hospital.  There are more than a thousand wounded here already.  The doctors and the supplies would be here by now but the plane is too big to land so we are waiting to see what will happen next.  We are almost oout of gas and there is no gas in the city.  After sending some emails and setting a meeting with the heads of several organizations and journalists for tomorrow morning at 6am, i tried to leave to go to Didi’s again.  Before I was ready to leave I began getting all of the skypes that there is gunfire all over teh city.  so we diecided to stay here at the Mathew 25 house (hospital) and will try to go to Didi’s and set up alogistics yard in Delmas tomorrow morning.  Again, I am so happy and thankful to be here with my fellow Haitian community members and leaders from the province.  We all made it safe and sound.  Tomorrow we will try to find their families and develop our strategy for moving those not seriously injured to the communal zones.

thank you all for your concerns.  will keep youposted as I can.

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