JDC Dispatches from Haiti

More than a week after Hurricane Matthew wreaked widespread devastation on Haiti, JDC and its partners Heart to Heart International and UNICEF are providing critical aid to hundreds of people including medical support, hygiene kits and water purification tablets.

JDC’s disaster relief expert and field medic Mike Attinson is on the ground in Haiti, coordinating JDC's response and working to triage victims in need of medical attention at community clinics run by Heart to Heart. He wrote these reflections from the field.

As we approached Jeremie, an area that was pummeled by Hurricane Matthew, it is easy to see that the damage to the homes is significant. It reminds me of what I saw on the ground after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013.

Not only did the wind completely decimate homes, it also uprooted trees and vegetation that Haitians depend on for their livelihood and as their source of food. The topography here looks similar to a war zone, with endless broken trees everywhere the eye can see.

About an hour out from our destination, the road was completely unpaved and the after effects of rockslides were very apparent. I am deployed slightly outside of Jeremie in a government-run medical facility no longer in operation.

This evening, I went to a village in the hills about 50 minutes from Jeremie to assess a potential cholera treatment center to be operated in addition to the Heart to Heart clinic in Jeremie. On our journey, we took an injured child to the hospital in town -- a child suffering from a compound fracture, an injury that occurred because of the harsh weather conditions brought on by the hurricane.  There are no ambulances and it is very difficult to get to a hospital.

The roads are in bad shape, and there is no electricity anywhere. There are only small amounts of food available, but today, supply trucks are coming with a small reserve of nourishment.

Yesterday was a very productive day. We set up shop with Heart to Heart at the Methodist church in downtown Jeremie, and a paramedic and I split about 103 patients between us to triage.

Most patients are suffering from long term problems and some issues that are result of the hurricane and its aftermath. We have organized our operation well with local nurses, who also serve as translators, and by providing food and water to patients. 

While it is still very hot and humid on the ground, we saw quite a few helicopters overhead today that look to be part of the U.S. Navy. Also, more trucks carrying supplies are beginning to arrive in the city.

Haitians are starting to fix their roofs, yet it will take a lot of time to finish these repairs. Still, the city has real potential for rebirth.

Today’s weather is less humid and immediately after waking up, our team headed back to the Church. Throughout the country, alongside five other teams, Heart to Heart has helped over 500 Haitians in need of medical care. 

Patients sit calmly in church pews as they await triage; their blood pressure, temperature, and pulse taken while they fill out forms to give to the doctors. After seeing the doctor, patients are sent to an improvised pharmacy manned by Heart to Heart volunteers.

We are seeing many issues related to noncompliance with the medicine prescribed to the patients. They say that the "medicine is running out.” Some patients have never had their condition treated.  They are remarkably stoic considering the circumstances.

On the bright side, I saw a water truck today on the street, and people have returned to walking around town. 

Electricity remains nonexistent in the city, with power lines still on the ground in many places.

In the Methodist guest house, we have access to a generator at nighttime but we shut it off after a few hours to conserve fuel.

Despite everything going on around us, I am doing OK. I am proud to represent JDC as we work to aid the hardest-hit communities in Haiti, helping those who most desperately need assistance.


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