Neither the news clips, nor the countless stories from my colleagues that have traveled to Haiti after the earthquake prepared me for the atrocities of the ruins. When I landed in Haiti on March 29, 2010, I was overwhelmed by mixed emotions. While I was very happy to be part of the mission-to be in Haiti, my birth place, to see the Haitian people, the people that I love and care for so very much-I was also very tearful at the devastation and the condition the people of Haiti are living in. It saddened me when I did not recognize my parents’ home, a place that I value very much and had some very profound memories of growing up in. However, I found solace in the resiliency of the people, their will to live, and their hope to carry-on, rebuild and continue with life as if nothing ever happened.
The Haitian American Nurses Association (HANA) has partnered with several organizations to help meet the medical needs of the thousands left severely injured by the earthquake that ravaged Haiti on January12, 2010. As part of the HANA Disaster Medical Relief Mission project, we worked in collaboration with several organizations to recruit and facilitate volunteer nurses and doctors for this project. All of our efforts have been concentrated in Port-au-Price. On March 29, 2010 HANA undertook a bold initiative of spearheading a special mission to six suburban provinces in Haiti also affected by the earthquake who have seen little in the form of help. The goal was to create a group of a minimum of 50 volunteer nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and doctors who would be divided into teams and simultaneously be on the ground in Haiti, providing medical assistance for one week. The HANA members were to recruit friends and colleagues to assist with the mission. I am employed by The Children’s Aid Society in New York City; I recruited two special nurses Olabisi Olowoyo and Geralde Sully of the Medical Foster Care Program to partake in this special mission.
Our days began at 5 o’clock in the morning and finish by 8 at night. I believe some of the members would carry on through the night if they could; there wasn’t a lack of patients to see but a lack of electricity made it unsafe to work. Needless to say the mission on our end was a success; however, we could not help wishing that we could have done more.
During that week we saw and treated more than 2,500 Haitians. Their ailments varied from malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, skin ailments, GERD, pelvic inflammatory disease, untreated hypertension; some have been diagnosed but unable to buy the prescribed medication. But the most striking were malnutrition, illnesses caused by a lack of hygiene, and teenage pregnancy. We vaccinated a thousand farmers, pregnant women and children seven years and older with donated tetanus vaccines. We also took every opportunity possible to provide health education and distribute condoms.
It has already been four months since the earthquake; people are still living in tents on the streets with no access to portable water and facilities, hungry children and parents who seem to have accepted their fate and do not complain. With the hurricane season approaching, one cannot help but to think of the unimaginable when thinking of how and what else one can do to help.
Haiti is no longer in the news headlines, but the Haitian people need us and we cannot stop working toward a better Haiti. I want to take the time to thank everyone who has helped in Haiti disaster relief efforts, everyone who prayed for us while we were in Haiti and especially my colleagues at Children’s Aid who covered for us while we were away.
Ixleine Dufrene The Children's Aid Society