18 January 2010

Hope for Haiti Updates 1/17

Recent news from the Hope for Haiti Foundation describes the situation there with an influx of refugees now making their way out of Port-au-Prince to other areas.

The past 36 hours have brought the start of the expected migration of people from Port au Prince to Jérémie, and The Haitian Health Foundation’s immediate focus is on addressing their needs. Supplies necessary to aid the influx are scarce, a problem compounded by the collapse of banking and the absence of currency. However, partnerships with such agencies as AmeriCares, Cross International, and the Red Cross are being forged to bridge the gaps in the area’s needs

Dr. Bette Gebrian, HHF’s Director of Public Health, reports that people seeking the refuge of their families and homes in the Grand’Anse began arriving yesterday, with an estimated 2000+ having arrived by early Sunday. About 1,500 came by boat from Port au Prince, with the remainder having traveled the difficult overland route.
Buses and trucks that arrived yesterday were greeted by loved ones, Croix Rouge Hatienne (Red Cross of Haiti), MINUSTAH (United Nations), and local Scouts. HHF personnel were on hand with partner organizations to address the injured, transferring those with the most severe injuries to the public hospital and helping to treat others with less severe conditions. Although HHF does not operate a trauma center, it has committed its support to treating injuries not requiring hospitalization, offering its pharmacy, X-ray, sonogram, and other medical services and supplies.

Overland travelers described the difficult trip: one truck teeming with people broke down, and another was involved in an accident, causing passengers to pack together in whatever other vehicles they encountered. The injured traveled alongside the uninjured, and stories abound of Haitians caring for their own. Those fortunate enough to ride described passing many people who had undertaken the route on foot, a journey that will take about 6 days. Among those walking westward, some were seen carrying the caskets of family members.

The Grand’Anse Department Director of Croix Rouge pointed out that a large percentage of the people in Port au Prince migrated from southwest Haiti, and arrivals thus far are just a fraction of those expected to return. Many are coming with severe injuries, broken bones, and burns. HHF is a member of the partnership of organizations that will welcome them back and help to provide for their needs in food, shelter, and health care.

The boat carrying the 1,500 returning Grand’Anse residents was met by an orderly debarkation that included UN security personnel and local police, screening offloading passengers for potential security risks. There were at least 10 pregnant women among the passengers who were assessed. One was reported to be in labor and was immediately transported to the hospital; three others were brought to HHF’s Center of Hope Maternal Waiting Home for assessment. Other passengers, most of whom left Port au Prince with only the clothes on their backs, were given clothing, juice, protein bars, and soap. Potable water was supplied by HHF’s 4,000 gallon water truck, which Cross International provided two years ago.

In under 5 hours, trucks and private vehicles were on their way to drop off the exhausted travelers in all corners of the Grand’Anse. Those waiting in Jérémie were able to stay in a schoolyard in tents supplied by Croix Rouge.

The need continues with many more trucks and buses anticipated to arrive today, which will require more supplies. The lack of fuel has reportedly kept the boat anchored, unable to make the return trip to Port au Prince. Like other organizations, HHF is currently unable to purchase diesel. Unfortunately, it is also not uncommon for prices of the unavailable commodities to quadruple when they finally do become available.

With over 2,000 people having returned to Jérémie in the first day, it is clear that HHF’s resources will be severely strained over the coming months and beyond. The Haitian Health Foundation thanks you for your generosity during this period. Children—orphaned or not—will become a part of HHF’s comprehensive children’s health programs. Expectant mothers will be monitored and treated as indicated by their conditions. The injured will require both short and long-term care. All may become recipients of HHF’s services in feeding programs, education, housing, or other initiatives.

To our friends, we ask that you keep this story before the public; although we did not have the crumbling buildings of Port au Prince—and we do pray for the rescue of those still trapped and the recovery of the survivors—we readily accept the challenge of helping to repair the lives in the Grand’Anse devastated by this catastrophe. Bette Gebrian says, “We are heartened by the generosity of HHF’s legions of supporters, who have sent donations from all over the United States to help their struggling neighbors.”

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