images top to bottom: Rodney Patrick in Miami field hospital in critical condition from gun shot wounds/Dr. Yvens Laborde treating three- month old Dedumes Christiano at a mobile clinic/Dr. Yvens Laborde treating Anita Buenieville (95 year old) for hypertension/Volunteers with The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation distributing blankets at the National Stadium
Port-au-Prince, Haiti 10 weeks after the earthquake, though the search and rescue work is long over, one can easily find people that need rescuing. No one is alive under the rubble any more, but many people are in mortal danger. Their needs are little different than they were the day after the earthquake.
My first day back in Port-au-Prince I was met by Dr. Yvens Laborde who works for Oshner Hospital in New Orleans. He is a one man envoy on the ground for the hospital helping as many people as he can. Our first stop was the Miami University Hospital on the airbase. It has grown in size and was fuller than ever. Laborde checked on Rodney Patrick, who was shot three times in the back by thieves. His odds of survival are slim, unless Labode can get him evacuated to a hospital in America, a feat he doesn’t think he will be able to pull off. Later we went to Champ de Mars, the tent city across from the presidential palace, to check up on Anita Buenieville, a 95-year-old woman who has hypertension, common after the quake. After the house call he helped as many as he could at an on-the- spot clinic he set up with the help of two assistants. He wasn’t sure he could save three-month old Dedumes Christiano. She developed a rash most likely caused by an infectious disease. (See the doctor in action with the baby here.)
The lack of aid reaching the Haitian people as a crime against humanity, according to Laborde. He is watching people die who he could easily have cured. The situation is deplorable. The need on the ground versus the millions of dollars in aid money being donated is hard to reconcile. In the tent cities, need is the first thing on the mind’s of everyone I meet. People ask for shelter, food, and medicine, in that order. Elianna Deaguste led me into her tent and showed me her sick daughter. The rain drenched both of them the night before.
The next days we spent trying to get a shipment released from Customs. The airway bill made it clear the shipment was medical supplies, humanitarian aid, yet the cargo area we were sent to after UPS gave the doctor the paper work wouldn’t release it. The doctor was sent on a wild goose chase that lasted two days, and still the medicine was not released. The Haitian bureaucracy is maddening. It takes over 30 minutes to get a “No” and be told to go elsewhere, over and over again. At the Minister of Interior’s office where we went to get the first of three signatures, a worker pointed out to me that the man in the office across from us had been trying every day for three weeks to have his packages released. Four days later and Laborde, a man good at working his way through the system here;Haitian born, launage and culture are second nature to him and still has not gotten the medicine released. He wonders if it is this hard for him, what’s it like for those less accustomed to red tape?
Things at the National Stadium have changed. Ben Constant, who allowed for the establishment of the tent city there, added another 800 families to the 1,000 he originally opened the stadium to, bringing the population to over 10,000 people. The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, based in San Dimas, CA, chose to focus their humanitarian work at the National Stadium after meeting Ben. They are giving aid to those living in the Stadium and the surrounding area. They come daily and will do so until early April. Their distribution technique is much different than the World Food Program food surge that was run with help of the US military and the UN forces. They treat the Haitians with respect and love, bowing when giving aid to each recipient. Curtis Hsin, the Emergency Disaster Coordinator, reported that Brazilian UN security guards told him that the way to keep order was to fight. “Why do you think you need to fight?” Hsin asked. “We will show the Haitian people love and all will be peaceful.” The UN guards saw for themselves how respectful and peaceful the distribution process can be. Click here to see video cip of Curits.
While the National Stadium is one of the most secure tent cities , the makeshift shelters offer little protection from the elements. Early Friday morning bought hours of rain. People frantically try to protect themselves and their belongings. Tents are on the way proviced by the Buddists, Ben has been told.
There are noticeably few bright spots to be found in Port-au-Prince these days. Bush and Clinton are set to arrive and meet with the ineffective leadership of the country. The whereabouts of the millions of dollars donated to their fund remains a mystery to me and all those I have met, many of whom have still have received no help at all.