Today we began our second phase of Haitian medical relief by heading out of Port Au Prince and into the surrounding countryside in search of communities that are in need of medical clinics and triage. Today we went southwest about 30 kilometers to Gressier and Leogane, the reported epicenter of the January 12 quake. The destruction in Leogane was nothing short of mind-blowing. We’d conservatively estimate that at least 80-90% of all buildings, houses and other structures in Leogane were destroyed. In the attached video, you will see some of the destruction of downtown, including a huge pile of pulverized concrete. This huge pile was in fact the historic Catholic Church built sometime on the 18th century. It is nothing more than rock and dust today. Dr. Joe Markee of Vancouver, WA who was leading our outreach is a former resident of Leogane. He was shocked and saddened.
When you travel 30-40 kilometers seeing destroyed building after destroyed building, you begin to realize how the current death toll estimates are so high. Thousands of structures pancaked. Forever tombs for the unsuspecting. I found myself trying not to look too hard for signs of death. But that didn’t work too well. They were everywhere. I’ve attached a picture of a school that collapsed. I climbed through the rubble to look into what was the ground floor. A classroom for sure as I saw the remnants of chalkboards and desks. The good news is that the quake hit at just before 5 pm so the kids were out, but they suspect some staff were still inside at that time.
We went to the Notre Dame School of Nursing in Leogane and found our way to their hospital. It was being run by the Japanese army and had a line out front like we had not seen at kings for a few days. Next to the hospital was a very nice compound. Learned it was built by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the work of the school. I took the attached picture of a painting I found on the wall in the hallway of the guesthouse which was done by a Leogane artist named Dubic. It depicts the town with two well marked graves marking the “death” of two common lymphatic ailments (types of elephantitus) in this part of Haiti – Gwopye (swollen feet) and Maklouklou (swollen scrotums). Look at how Bill and Melinda are depicted in this painting. Black tie in this Haitian village…
By 3:00 we had made arrangements to provide medical support at the Lepertorium, an actual leper colony that has become the base of medical relief operations between Leogane and Gressier. We will send a team there for a few days tomorrow to provide on site care. Today a consortium of German, Cuban and American medical personnel saw over 700 patients. We expect the numbers to be high tomorrow and will look forward to the Canadian Army opening a full service mobile hospital in the morning.
We currently have two teams out in the field through the weekend. I’ll be calling them later tonight to hear how things are going. I know one thing for sure…..they won’t be sitting on their hands. The medical needs of the Haitian people resulting form the earthquake will be acute for several months. Their overall health status dire for decades.