Haiti is awash with broken buildings. Piles of fallen trees lay on the ground like heaps of huge match sticks. Trauma is palpable everywhere and our disaster relief team has wasted no time building potential partnerships with Haiti’s Ministry of Health to try to find a clear path forward for Haitians. Short and long-term needs of the Haitian people are a priority for those in government because food and water supplies, and homes and health systems were crumbled by the Category 4 storm that swept across the Caribbean.
Our field assessments reveal what many Haitians are experiencing here: The southwestern part of the country has been particularly hard hit and PAHO reports that acute diarrheal diseases including cholera threaten parts of the population, and the majority of cholera treatment facilities in some regions have been destroyed. Even before the hurricane, access to health care, water and sanitation presented challenges for Haiti and cholera was on the rise. Now, hundreds of new cholera cases have been reported and water supply interruptions are certain to make the situation worse.
Nurse practitioner and first-time Project HOPE volunteer, Maya Ginns, from Massachusetts General Hospital is here to begin her two-week rotation at the St. Therese Regional Hospital in Nippes. As soon as she arrived in Haiti, Maya said she quickly sensed the crucial needs that brought her here. “My first impressions are that there is so little infrastructure in place to deal with sanitation and health care delivery so when you think about putting a disaster on top of that which wipes out a lot of physical structures and human resource capacity, I can see how there would be an immediate need for an ongoing capacity,” she said. Maya said she was somewhat prepared for this experience before she arrived. “I was speaking with a Haitian nurse on the airplane and she explained that a lot of the food supply is day-to-day. People farm things and then they eat that food. They don’t have fridges stocked full of food supplies. So when a disaster wipes out the health and agricultural sectors and even the place where you grow your own food gets wiped out, you find yourself in an incredibly dangerous predicament,” Maya said. Maya will work with three other volunteers, including her fellow nurse practitioner from Massachusetts General, Lindsey Martin, in the St. Therese Hospital. “My hope is that we will be able to assimilate into the hospital staff and take care of patients as soon as possible. I am partnered with Lindsey Martin who is also a nurse practitioner and she and I have very complimentary skill sets so she is used to dealing with very acute critical care and I do more of the urgent care and primary care and I think that will be a very good marriage of skills,” said Maya.
Project HOPE's Gifts-in-Kind team is also in Haiti, preparing for a shipment of essential medical supplies to arrive later in the week.
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