Interview: „The logistic challenges are tremendous“

In conversation with humedica coordinator Oleg Lepschin

by LKO,  2016/10/13

For nearly a week now Oleg Lepschin works as assistant coordinator in Haiti to help the victims of the hurricane “Matthew” in the course of the relief intervention of humedica. After having passed his preparatory training the 26 year-old Berlin now takes part in his first operation on site in a disaster area. In the following interview he explains, which challenges the work in Haiti presents, and how exactly he sees the situation in the country at the moment.

Oleg, since one week now your team is on site in Haiti; what is your interim conclusion?

Oleg Lepschin (third from the left) together with the other humedica team members before their departure to Haiti. Photo: humedica

Presently my interim conclusion is quite mixed. On the one hand I am really glad that our first team could already start to work at the destroyed town Baradère and is able to help the people, who suffer from the extreme consequences of the cyclone. On the other hand we have to meet severe logistic challenges and have to calculate exactly what steps to take next in order to continue our work efficiently and needs-based.

At first it did not seem to be so clear, which consequences the hurricane „Matthew“ had for Haiti. The media reported only slight damage in the beginning. Only recently, for four or five days now, the full impact of the disaster and the resulting massive threat of a cholera outbreak has been known: How is the present situation in the affected region in the South West of the country, as far as you can tell?

The extent of destruction is massive. It is much worse than thought initially. In the region, where we are active, 80 to 90 per cent of the buildings are demolished, there is no clean and secure drinking water available and a torrential river makes its way through Baradère. Furthermore the town is still cut off from the outside. In particular the logistic challenges are really enormous.

Which strains involve the conditions mentioned above for both the affected people and their aides?

Besides the already mentioned logistic tasks to organise the relief measures, which directly concern the needy people, also the supply of the population with food and secure drinking water is an elementary challenge at the moment. Especially with regard to the hygienic conditions and the associated danger for the health of all people, it is crucial that help reaches them as fast as possible. If more and more people fall ill, the problems will be even bigger, also for the helpers of humedica.

How are you coping personally? Did you witness especially striking situations in the last days?

I am ok, I live in a decent accommodation and have more than enough to drink and eat. But to think of the upcoming challenges is quite distressing, particularly since at the moment it is still not clear, how some of the next steps have to be taken to guarantee efficient support.

In fact there was one event in the last days, that impressed me in particular and stayed in my head: When I left my car in front of a super market, I saw a woman, who had had several limbs amputated. When she saw my red vest, she was obviously very pleased and laughed at me. My driver then explained, that this woman had been treated by humedica helpers six years ago after the severe earthquakes.

I also had quite a lot of interesting other experiences, which meant very much for me personally. Especially as I study the field of humanitarian help and at the moment follow a course on Disaster Management.

What hopes do you have for the second part of this disaster operation?

I really hope that we can continue to use our medical capacities diligently and efficiently and that further help reaches as fast as possible the many people in need.

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