Friday, January 15, 2010
I am so frustrated about the disaster in Haiti and have been actively engaged in relief efforts for the past 60 hours. I have been asked to lead the efforts for helping Haiti for my employer, a large hospital provider of health care in Northern California. I am proud to say that within the first 72 hours, Sutter Health has committed $1 million to Doctors with-out Borders and $250K to MedShare to get needed medical supplies to Haiti. Both organizations are on the ground providing this help right now and we chose them as partners because they can get the job done.
Getting needed professional help to Haiti is another story. The outpouring of volunteers wanting to help is huge. Our employees and doctors, nurses, engineers and computer experts are ready and willing to volunteer. But at this time the destroyed infrastructure makes sending this needed help impossible.
I know from my experience on the ground at Katrina that volunteers cannot just "show up". Volunteers need food, housing, transportation, meaningful deployment to areas of need. It stresses an already fragile system to have well-meaning people just milling about. What was lacking at Katrina is even more absent in Haiti...a well coordinated relief effort.
The situation in Haiti is much more dire than other disasters because Port au Prince was the capital and there is no functioning government. The port is closed and the airport is now under U.S. military guidance. That is a good start but bringing volunteers in by plane is impossible. They have no fuel for planes on the ground and no control tower.
I will spend the weekend continuing to investigate partnerships in Haiti. I have been in contact with a number of Haitian physicians and hospitals that are overflowing with patients. They need the help that we can provide, especially surgical teams. The logistics are a challenge.
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