Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pictures - Progress on the hospital

Food for Thought

This episode of "This American Life" was broadcast on NPR in May. The second story (at about the 30 minute mark) features abit about Ebenezer Clinic in Haut Limbe.

You can stream it or download it from ITunes here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Six Months Plus a Day

It's been 6 months and a day since the earthquake. Here's a report I prepared after my recent visit to Port au Prince to assess the work that Ebenezer Clinic did.

 On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Port au Prince area of Haiti. It is estimated that over 200,000 people lost their lives and close to 1 million people lost their homes and were forced to relocate to other parts of the country or in tent cities amidst the rubble. In the two weeks following the quake, the world watched Haiti intently and gave generously to the relief efforts. Within hours, military and organizations (large and small) from around the world descended on Haiti to help.
Those who live in the north of Haiti (about a 250 km drive away) felt the earthquake as well. Although there was little physical damage, the damage was still felt here as many people lost loved ones in Port au Prince and we began to receive many Internally Displaced People (IDPs) as they migrated north to start a new life. Amidst this, Ebenezer Clinic in Haut Limbe began to look for a way that they too could respond to the needs of those affected by the earthquake. In the first two weeks following the quake, the clinic decided to provide free services to all of its patients, most of who had come from Port au Prince. In that period, the clinic saw approximately 2,000 patients. In addition, they began to look for ways to directly provide relief in Port au Prince. Through the generosity of donors like the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada, Geneva Global, Mission of Mercy and numerous other Canadian and American individuals, Ebenezer Clinic created a strategy to adopt two communities in Port au Prince that had not yet received help.
Here is an excerpt of the journal of Janelle Peterson during 2 day trip to Port au Prince to observe the relief work of Ebenezer Clinic.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I woke up at 4:30 this morning as we were supposed to leave at 5 to go to Port au Prince. We (5 clinic staff including a doctor, lab technician, and pharmacist plus myself) are going to do mobile clinics at two of the sites that Ebenezer Clinic helped after the earthquake that happened just 6 months and a day ago. None of us have visited the sites before and only a few of us have been to Port since the earthquake. 6 am rolls around and we finally load ourselves and the medication into the truck to begin the 250 km (or 6 hour drive) to Port au Prince.
It’s a long and bumpy ride. The National Road is in some dire need of maintenance – it doesn’t quite compare to Hwy #1 in Canada. The first 2 hours to Gonaives include ascending and descending two mountain passes (without guard rails), dodging pot holes every 50 ft and bumping along coarse gravel parts. There are 4 of us sitting in the backseat of the truck – which helps with holding you in place over the bumps, but after just two hours, my legs begin to turn numb.
We begin to approach Gonaives, which has suffered its own bout of destruction through hurricanes in the past few years. I can’t help but notice all of the signs that outside donors (NGO’s and governments) have posted along the road to show their projects. It’s discouraging to see because although the signs are posted there, any true sign of progress or development is not evident. I wonder if Port au Prince will look like that in two years.
Once we pass Gonaives and get close to Saint Marc, the road becomes much smoother and we can zip along at 60 mph. The condition of the road is a reminder to me of the disparity between the north (where I live) and the south (Port au Prince) in Haiti. As we approach the outskirts of Port, we begin to see the first tent cities set up in the open fields. For those in the truck who are coming to Port for the first time, they are overwhelmed by this sight. It’s hard to imagine that people fled the city and their crumbled homes to find refuge in an open field with only a couple tarps or sheets for shelter.
It’s about noon and we arrive at the first site, Dubuisson. We aren’t that far into Port and you begin to see the damage of the earthquake. Buildings lay crumbled with people going on with life around them. Any open yard is filled with makeshift tents and usually has a sign posted outside it reading “we need help”. I’m guessing that the UN didn’t make it there. We pull up to a gate and enter a large yard with a few buildings in it. After we park, we can see a group of people waiting under the shade of the trees for the mobile clinic to begin. To the right, I can see the shelters that Ebenezer helped to construct over the past few months.
We meet Madeline, who works for the organization ANK – Ansam Nap Kenbe (Together We’re Holding/Keeping), which is the local group that Ebenezer Clinic partnered with in this area. She shows us how they’ve set up for the mobile clinic, and the clinic staff get right to work to start seeing patients. We’ve also hired 3 other local doctors to help Dr. Joselie out. As they get to work, I help by cutting blank paper in half to be used as patient dossier/prescription pads. At first there doesn’t appear to be a lot of people waiting, but as time goes on, more and more people arrive.
Soon Max, our host, invites me to come and see more closely the construction projects. The shelters built here provide permanent housing for 33 families. The families who are here gathered at the site from the surrounding area after the earthquake as their homes were destroyed (picture above shows their original shelters right after the earthquake). Before the earthquake, the yard belonged to one or two families (who probably live in the United States) where they were in the process of building large vacation homes, that now stand partly constructed and partly destroyed.
Max proudly shows me the shelters and introduces me some of the families along the way. A young girl, maybe 8 or 9, befriends me and holds onto my hand as we walk along. Each family has a space, maybe 10x10, to live in. There are heavy tarps on 3 sides, with metal sheeting for the roof to keep the rain out. One woman proudly shows me her kitchen area in a corner of the room where she is cooking lunch. Everyone has their belongings neatly stored around the edges. People seem generally happy and content with their current living conditions. I learn later, that many people were living out in the yard without any more protection than a bed sheet before hand. Now, people know that when the rains come, they can stay dry during the night. As we get to the back of the property, Max shows me two latrines that we built. Though they lack some privacy, they provide help provide some proper sanitation.
The doctors consult more than 100 people that day. We finish up around 4:30 and pack up before we visit an annex to this site where more shelters have been built with the support of Mission of Mercy. When we arrive there, people are lined up to receive a ration of food. ANK is currently only able to provide food once a month to the families living there – they hope to one day be able to provide more. We take a look at the shelters built and see that some have not been completed as of yet. They are hoping we will be able to help them complete them. We meet one woman who does not currently have a bed so she is sleeping on the ground.
After the tour, they invite us to eat a meal that they have prepared for us – rice and beans, chicken, gratin and cake. As we eat, Madeline thanks Ebenezer Clinic and its donors for all the help they have provided so far, but she reminds us that there is much more work to be done. I can’t help but wonder how the people here will ever be able to provide for themselves and not have to rely on outside help.
It’s soon getting dark, so we go to Max’s house where we will stay for the night. We set up two tents outside and after having much needed showers and eating one more time; we go to sleep because we have another big day ahead of us.
Monday, June 14, 2010
It’s another early morning. Everyone starts stirring shortly after 5 when we hear some roosters crowing nearby. We get ready for the day and eat some breakfast. Before we head into Port au Prince, we have a chance to watch some of the futbol game between Holland and Denmark. It’s the World Cup and almost everything in Haiti comes to a halt when a match is on.
By 8:30 we start making our way into Port au Prince. As we get farther into the city, the destruction of the earthquake is much more evident. There are larger buildings which fell, bigger piles of concrete, and yards upon yards of tent cities. The place that we are going, Fort Nasyonal, is located near the center of Port au Prince and is essentially on top of a hill. As we drive up I notice the large machinery that is there to start moving the concrete. There are also many workers wearing Haitian government issued yellow T-shirts that say “Ann Leve Kanpe!”  (Let’s Rise to Stand!), that are working in the hot sun and dust to move concrete by hand. It’s a labour intensive job.
We park the truck and then carry our supplies down the hill to the gate of the site of the mobile clinic. This site includes about 120 families that lost their homes in the earthquake.  We will set up in a shelter that was built on a basket ball court after the earthquake. The entire court is covered with a metal sheeting roof and has strong tarps for walls to keep the rain and the wind out. As we get closer, I notice that a TV has been set up and of course it was broadcasting the current World Cup match. During the World Cup, the government is providing EDH (state electricity), so that fans can watch the games. Up until this point, most areas of Port au Prince have not received any EDH since the earthquake.
Today we have two doctors who will be seeing patients. The local organizers, Organisation des Jeunes Progressists de la Ruelle Boisson, have set up a ticket system for patients and everything runs smoothly. I wander around the shelter that has beds and personal belongings set up to get a better view. On the other side of the court, I can peak out the tarps and see a view of the rolling hills of Port au Prince covered with dilapidated houses.
I take a seat near where the pharmacy has been set up to do some observation. I meet Emmanuel St. Brice, who is one of the local organizers with for the day and he is able to tell me about his experience during and since the earthquake.
Before the earthquake, Emmanuel and his family lived in a home not far from the basketball court. When the earthquake happened, Emmauel was upstairs in his house helping one of his cousin’s children study. The house began to shake and all the people inside ran out into the street. Everyone made it out alive at the time. There was dust everywhere and no one could see anything. At first they could not find all the other members of the family because communication systems were down, but they were able to meet up the next day at the basketball court where many people had already gathered to sleep for the night before with no shelter to protect them. After about one week, the United States military showed up to distribute some medicine, water and soap. Some people had been able to salvage some food from their houses because they made a strategy to enter the houses safely to retrieve it. He told me that people had to bathe in the street with no privacy and many people went for days without changing their clothes.  To this Emmanuel said, “We lived like we did not exist”.
Dr. Manno had visited the tent city for the first times shortly after the earthquake, but it wasn’t until March that Ebenezer Clinic was able to come down to provide some relief. In that first trip, they were able to do a mobile clinic as well as provide food packages to the people. By April, they were able to start building the more permanent shelter over the basketball court. These shelters helped address the issues of the wind, rain and intense sun that people had been exposed to before.  They also provided a better sense of security to the people. They shelters are not completely finished as of yet, they hope to expand them even further.
“We want to say thank you to Ebenezer Clinic and all of the donors for all the things they have done for us. We hope to continue to work with you and find a way for us to be able to provide food and water to this community.” Emmanuel St. Brice
After seeing about 60 patients, we finish up around noon. We find some lunch at a nearby hotel and set off for home. We are all tired and just want to get back. We arrive in Gonaives shortly after 8 and then make the worst part of the trip. Going through the mountains isn’t fun during the day, never mind in the dark when you only have seconds to see the semi truck coming towards on a road with no guard rails! We roll into Haut Limbe just after 11pm, happy to be home and grateful for a shower and soft bed to sleep in. It was not a comfortable trip, but I am glad that I went. The stories of the survivors of the earthquake need to be continued to be told. It’s been six months, but they are still living with the affects of the earthquake and will continue to live with them for years to come. I was encouraged to see the work that is being done there, but I was continually reminded that there is still so much more that needs to be done.