EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI: A current report from our coordinator Simone Winneg

by Simone Winneg/SRI,  2010/01/19

Besides Dieter Schmidt (Nesselwang), she is the second person in charge of coordinating the aid efforts of the two medical teams humedica sent to Haiti. The current report written by Simone Winneg (Kaufbeuren) reached us just a few minutes ago. “The impressions of the past two-three days have been overwhelming, horrible on the one hand, yet also encouraging on the other.”

Helping under difficult conditions: The humedica team is working hard to help as many people as possible. Foto: humedica/Jens Großmann

The damage in Port-au-Prince is devastating: whole streets of houses have been wiped out in the western part of the city; multi-storey buildings, hotels and supermarkets collapsed like a house of cards. Our work at the hospital “Espoir” (“Hope”) has been underway for several days. The humedica medical team is doing an outstanding job.

During relief missions, I have rarely seen such a good team spirit, staying power and commitment in a team as it is the case with the present crew. We have established a well-functioning hospital facility: with in-patient care, ward round and operations.

We have been very lucky with our working location: the hospital “Espoir” is actually a private hospital, yet had to close its doors on Wednesday. The director told us that they had worked continuously for three days and then, lacking staff and, above all, material, had not been able to accept any more patients.

Our team was in the right place at the right time: with our medi-kit we were well-equipped to treat the survivors arriving. Almost all our patients have suffered injuries and fractures. At times, their injuries are so severe that parts of their body have died completely and have to be amputated in an operation. We have already performed two amputations, one of a right forearm, one of a left upper arm.

Improvisation is necessary: We have neither a bone saw, nor a normal anaesthesia, just Ketanest and a bigger clasp knife. Yet difficult situations sometimes require improvisation and unconventional means. The operations were vital for the survival of the women. After a heavy impact, their arms or hands had already died and become infected; the risk of blood poisoning (septicaemia) was high.

Unfortunately the doctors had already been carried out amputations.. Foto: humedica/Jens Großmann

The treatment of our patients requires much time: with the simplest of means, the medical team builds extension devices, applies plasters and bandages. The treatment of one patient often takes 15-30 minutes or even longer in the case of difficult cases and operations. All the wounds presented to us almost one week after the quake are dirty, bandaged in a makeshift way or even covered in cow dung.

After three days, however, we are reaching our limits: there are not enough beds in the hospital, not enough mattresses to cope with the number of patients. Again, improvisation is necessary: All rooms are emptied, mattresses pulled out of all corners of the building; nevertheless, many patients have to content themselves with a small space on the floor – new patients are arriving all the time.

Yet unfortunately, we are not immune to running out of supplies. We had enough bandage material for the first couple of days, yet we have also had to realize that suture material, plaster and infusions are used up unusually quickly because the injuries are so serious.

Apart from that, we are repeatedly asked for material by numerous organizations and hospitals: The project carried out by our partner organization Kindernothilfe e. V., who run a school in the heart of Port-au-Prince in cooperation with the salvation army, makes the seriousness of the situation obvious: one doctor is treating 58 patients, some of them having severe injuries, under the open sky, and on the table nearby, a child is born.

Nurses are cutting undershirts into pieces and use them as pads since they have run out of dressing material. Behind the school, another glimpse into the abyss, which makes the extent of suffering obvious: on the former football pitch, a tent city has sprung up; about 1000 people have accumulated their few belongings under four wooden posts and a sheet and are now living together in cramped conditions, without food and drinking water, without water supply and wastewater disposal, without electricity and, above all, without a home.

Almost every minute, new patients are transported into the hospital "Espoir". Foto: humedica/Jens Großmann

Unfortunately, these are ideal conditions for the outbreak of diseases and illnesses: a danger due to polluted water, insufficient hygiene, serious injuries and a general condition weakened by malnutrition. We can only hope that we will be prepared for the case of diseases or will be able to prevent it.

Tomorrow already, we will be able to welcome a new team that will arrive in Port-au-Prince equipped with many supplies, so that we will be able to continue helping the population – who desperately needs our help – as well as we have so far been able to.

Thereby, we will be able to alleviate their suffering for the time being – what the future will bring for this half-collapsed town, where many houses are still standing but will never be inhabitable again – is unpredictable at the moment. It will be a long and difficult road back to everyday life, even if street vendors are gradually returning, shops are reopening and communication is becoming better.

Through the help we can offer thanks to our teams we can support many people on this long road and make life more tolerable for them.

Best regards and many thanks,
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 „Earthquake Haiti"
       Account 47 47
       Bank code 734 500 00
       Sparkasse Kaufbeuren


Prof. Dr. Dr. Bernd Domres (Tübingen) treating one of the many young patients. Foto: humedica/Jens Großmann

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. 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 will be available for telephone and live-interviews. For further information, please contact humedica press spokesman Steffen Richter.

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