Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Haiti Disaster is Different

photo credit: Mike Lee with Operation Rainbow, deployed to the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic.



As the coordinator of Haiti Medical Relief for my generous employer, I find myself in contact with numerous organizations that are providing relief in Haiti. Our 15 person surgical team is being deployed today to Port au Prince. The fact that one week after the earthquake, relief is still spotty and millions of people are still without basic food and water is shocking to many of us following the disaster.

Katrina and other hurricanes and earthquakes worldwide were a major crisis...but victims were evacuated and many were able to return home after the crisis ended. In Haiti, the entire city of Port au Prince and surrounding cities were completely leveled. No-one can return home and most of the population is displaced and on the street. The entire government was also leveled with files, data, banks, stores. Many of the government employees are either dead, or seeking out their own relatives.

The Port to move in supplies was destroyed (although is now opening) and the airport has one runway and no control tower. Without a functioning government, communication to victims and relief workers is absent. The best communication has come from the press (CNN, BBC)email and twitter.

I wonder how Iceland arrived so quickly. Their search and rescue team was first on the ground. With any disaster of this type, search and rescue is the first responder. It has now been past a week and search and rescue will turn into search and recovery (of bodies).

It appears that there are now enough troops on the ground to control the situation and deliver aide. What is needed is a central command. The U.N has proven they are not up to the task in my opinion. The U.S. military has the infrastructure and, in cooperation with other nations, could take over leading that effort. Tent cities with santitary facilities need to be constructed immediately and the Red Cross should be empowered to run the food distribution. I was gratified to learn that there is already an employment mechanism to put Haitians to work clearing rubble and delivering supplies.

The Haiti Earthquake is already fading in the minds of the public. It is no longer front page news and CNN is showing only snippets of it now. Yet one week after the disaster, they are still performing amputations using generators for power and are performing 20,000 operations a day at University Hospital with makeshift tent operating rooms.

I will report on the medical relief in my next blog.

16 comments:

Lisa said...

Thanks for keeping us updated. Oprah had a wonderful special on Haiti yesterday, it really highlighted the need for someone to take charge in Haiti. The logistics of distribution need to get figured out more quickly. I know its challenging, but medical response and basic survival needs need to be measured in minutes and hours, not days and weeks.

KM said...

BRAVO for getting Sutter's medical team off to do their work of saving life's and providing crucial treatment. I'm sure it is hard not to go there yourself and be working on the front line, but your efforts in coordinating so many details in this mission right now with your past experience of Katrina knowledge is so tremendously invaluable to make it a success.

Thank you Dr.Brayer for your hard work on this and for taking time to write to clear up reasons for delays and things not happening yet that might not be coming across as clearly explained in the media.
I especially liked the part of giving work to the Haitians that are able to and be paid for their work.

Earlier on I had seen a interview on line video that three Orthopedic Surgeons from Massachusetts had arrived last Friday three days after the quake and wondered how they made it there so fast. The one being interviewed was with his wife and father-in-law all doctors.

KM said...

Also, a huge THANK YOU to your wonderful team of surgeons,and nurses, that are going to volunteer their medical skills and time.

sunnydalai said...

Unfortunately, because of grave mistakes in the past, the US military is NOT a welcome site in a disaster such as this, eventhough it probably would be best equipped to handle the situation efficiently. There is a tentative plan to use GITMO to house some of the (injured) refugees. What a worthwhile transformation that would be!

Linda Leighton said...

Sadly the aftershocks continue as they try to get the people and aid in there.

At least here in Tucson, AZ the news coverage is still pretty solid. There have been local efforts at World Care and the American Red Cross, as well as local stations tying in to the big fundraiser tomorrow night by airing their own several hours before George's big show.

Anonymous said...

Great job you are doing, and most likely not able to get much rest, but do you mean generous not genderous?

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Anon: Thanks for the pick-up. I need an editor. If you want the job, the pay is zero and the hours are long.

Anonymous said...

the operation rainbow photographs (shared by dave atkin) were provided by:

mike lee

http://www.focus97.com

he deserves proper credit.

thank you.

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