AFTERSHOCK IN HAITI: humedica-coordinator Simone Winneg reports on the aftershock

by Simone Winneg/Ruth Bücker,  2010/01/21

One week after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a strong aftershock shook the country again. In the following report, Simone Winneg, humedica coordinator in Haiti, describes her thoughts and feelings during the aftershock and what the situation is like after the latest quake.

„Our usual day starts at 6 o’clock. Since we arrived, a kind of routine has established itself, helping us to develop a certain structure, which is particularly helpful in this critical situation here on site. Yet today, everything is different.

The alarm clock is still ringing when I crawl out of my sleeping bag, still kind of sleepy. A strange feeling comes over me. My first thought is: “Why do I feel so wobbly today?” My knees are like jelly when I walk around, shakily.

Dr. Irmgard Harms and Prof. Dr. Dr. Bernd Domres with one of their little patients. Foto: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

And then, suddenly, I realize: it’s not me, yet the ground beneath my feet! In the same moment, people in the room jump up and loud voices can be heard from everywhere shouting “GO OUT” – only now I realize that this is an earthquake.

It is a strange feeling creeping over you in such a situation: you feel completely helpless, you’re the victim of forces you cannot comprehend and that are so unimaginably violent that they cause such immense damage!

Yet, the initial shock passes quickly: the team is complete, nobody is injured, nothing got broken. Everything seems to be all right. Really? I don’t know yet. I’m fearing the worst.

The situation is still so serious that, even though one week has passed since the devastating quake, violent aftershocks are following, which could still cause already damaged buildings to collapse. And this could have the same horrible consequences as the first quake.

Severely traumatized, the earthquake victims are afraid of staying within a building. Foto: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

In our humedica team on site, the fear is not so deep-seated. Yet the local population is panicked after the terrible experiences of the past days. We can see this when we arrive at the humedica hospital of hope; the patients had been lying in their beds when we had said good-bye to them the evening before; today, they are all lying in the front yard.

They had to be evacuated because the hospital was said to be in danger of collapse. Likewise, our material has to be removed from those parts of the building that are at risk of collapsing and we have to think of alternatives for the storage of our supplies.

A solution is quickly found: we put up the tents we brought with us. One tent will serve as an operation theatre, the others for storing or treatment. This is a challenge, even for our well-trained team that has been working in the disaster area for a whole week. Yet, together we can manage the situation thanks to our good team work.

Dr. Harms and Dr. Hohlweck treating their little patient outside. Foto: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

We have hardly finished the preparations when a team of the Technisches Hilfswerk (German Agency for Technical Relief) gives the all-clear. Some parts of the building were in danger of collapse, they say, yet others were still secure. We decide to use the secure parts of the building for our work again and put the material back into them.

Persuading the patients to move back into their rooms proves much more difficult. They are so severely traumatized that they don’t want to enter any building out of fear it might collapse in another quake. Their shock is deep-seated, which is understandable, given the damage that happened around them and deprived many of them of their houses and families.

The long-awaited arrival of the third team

It took the new team a long time – almost three days to cover the long distance from Germany to Haiti. But now, they’ve finally arrived. Equipped with many supplies and enthusiasm they come to support us.

Little Sulvana is able to laugh and sing again. Foto: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

Eight physicians, two nurses, two paramedics and a pharmacist, supported by coordinators and logisticians, finally arrived at the hospital of hope at lunch time! Their next aim will be to provide treatment in another hospital in one of the still undersupplied areas of the city, where people asked us for our help.

Like the „hospital of hope“, that hospital also had to be closed up for lack of staff, although help was and still is desperately needed. When we first visited the hospital, many people approached us in the street and told us that there were so many injured waiting for help.

Full of motivation we will therefore put up our tents and camp beds for patients there, establish an operations theatre and take the necessary supplies to our new working environment.

The earlier we can start working, the better: given the serious injuries, every day counts to save the lives of human beings before they lose it due to fatal blood poisoning. We are very grateful that we can help people here and would like to send our kind regards to all people in Germany who make our work in Haiti possible and keep us in their mind.

Yours sincerely, Simone and the humedica team Haiti

Please continue to help humedica carry out all aid measures planned by making a specific donation to the following account:
      humedica e. V.
      Reference „Erdbeben Haiti"
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren


The humedica relief efforts in Haiti are carried out in close cooperation with Kindernothilfe (Duisburg), World Vision (Friedrichsdorf) and Bild hilft - Ein Herz für Kinder (Hamburg). Moreover, we are receiving support from AIR BERLIN GROUP (Berlin), GAiN Germany e. V. (Gießen), hoffnungszeichen e. V. (Singen), Apotheker ohne Grenzen Deutschland e.V. (Munich), Skandinavische Kindermission, Deutsches Institut für Katastrophenmedizin (Tübingen), and Apotheker helfen e. V. - Hilfswerk der bayerischen Apotheker (Munich). Again, at this point, humedica would like to say thanks for any kind of support and the excellent cooperation.

Note for media representatives: If there is any interest, the medical teams in Haiti will be available for telephone and live-interviews. For further information, please contact humedica press spokesman Steffen Richter.

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