The situation on the ground in Haiti is worse than feared, as medical personnel struggle to deal with thousands of trauma victims and scarce supplies and resources.
The difficulties are compounded by the destruction visited on the Caribbean nation’s infrastructure. Relief flights snarled at Port-au-Prince airport and ports in the capital city were badly damaged by the magnitude 7.0 temblor Jan. 12, according to the New York Times.
As relief workers and supplies begin to trickle into stricken areas, reports are emerging that the situation on the ground is desperate. Cate Oswald, a staffer for Partners in Health’s Haiti operation, accompanied a convoy of two trucks carrying supplies and personnel into Port-au-Prince from the Central Plateau north of the city Jan. 14.
"Tonight, everywhere throughout the city, as we drove by the national plaza, there are thousands of people sleeping outside. While I was in Port-au-Prince, there were still aftershocks being felt," Oswald said.
PIH director Ophelia Dahl wrote in an email that the organization, which has had a presence in Haiti for decades, is setting up a base of operations in Port-au-Prince and developing a supply chain to the hardest-hit areas. The group’s clinical director in Haiti, Louise Ivers, had been attempting to treat casualties "with nothing but aspirin until our trucks showed up," Dahl wrote.
Patrick Almazor, a Haitian doctor who works with the group, reported that he and several other doctors are setting up mobile clinics in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince.
"We have a lot of fractures," he wrote in an email, according to Dahl. "We are running out of meds, I’m on my way to [PIH facility] St. Marc for supplies."
PIH and other relief organizations are also putting out the call for badly needed medical personnel.
"Importantly, given the patients already flowing out of Port-au-Prince to St. Marc and our other facilities outside the city, we cannot leave our hospitals understaffed," Dahl wrote. "We are recruiting surgeons, anesthetists, nurses, and other medical professionals to travel to Haiti in the next couple of days to help with staffing, particularly as many of our staff have lost family members and friends."
Yesterday, a Red Cross official estimated today that the death toll could reach the 45,000 to 50,000 range, according to the Times. Many victims are still buried in the rubble. Reports of looting of food stocks are also starting to come out, according to the newspaper, which reported that the United Nations is planning to create a relief supply line by road, small plane and helicopter from Santo Domingo, the capital of neighbor the Dominican Republic.
Boston-based Partners in Health had more than 120 doctors and nearly 500 nurses and nurse assistants already on the ground in Haiti before the disaster.
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