Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2 Days in Port-au-Prince

Sorry about the gap-day yesterday. We’ve had a couple of big days recently and internet isn’t available until we get back to the hotel at night.

It’s hard to describe the devastation that has hit this city. We’ve all been in earthquakes before but the buildings here look like bombs have gone off inside each one of them. It’s not just that concrete has fallen over. It’s like the concrete was made with the shatter-proof glass that you put in your car window that shatters into a million pieces when broken. It’s unreal. And the result is that the streets are completely covered in rubble and temporary roads have been cleared just to allow a single lane for cars to drive through. The presidential palace (the grounds of which actually look like the white house) has collapsed, as have all the ministry buildings nearby. You can see the desks that people were working on that day sticking out of the rubble.

And the tent cities that have sprung up all over the city are reminiscent of Soweto in South Africa. People are starting to build settlements anywhere that there is space. Most are using tents but some are gathering wood and sheet metal from wherever they can in order to rebuild their homes. Obviously there is no plumbing, running water, toilets, or electricity going on in these areas so issues of sanitation and disease are a serious concern.

Amazingly, the markets have started back up and people are working hard to clean up areas of the city bit by bit. Brett (a DRI colleague who came here immediately after the quake) took us past the site of the old post office today on our way to a hospital and the lot was completely empty. Two weeks ago it was a completely flattened building. On another main street there was earth moving equipment and probably 25 people working to clear the area of rubble. The incredibly sad part is that there are still people buried under this debris all over the city (if you couldn’t reason this out you could smell it distinctly) and as they clear each building they will slowly start to uncover these people.

On a positive side, there are a huge number of people here doing incredible work. We visited 3 hospitals who we haven’t worked with before and they are completely dialed in. We met a surgeon from Kentucky who seemed as though his specialty wasn’t even needed anymore now that most of the people who needed it have undergone their surgeries. We also met with a Haitian pharmacist at a local hospital that had seen over 2,000 patients and performed surgery on over half of them since the earthquake, and he could immediately rattle off every medication and piece of equipment they needed. The great thing is that our list of supplies matched up with their needs and we can provide them with a large number of items.

The sad thing about these hospitals is that while they have enough doctors, they don’t have enough beds for all the patients. That means that patients who go in for surgery in the hospital have to undergo their post-operative treatment in tents outside. If that doesn’t sound bad, imagine getting a rod implanted into your leg to fix your femur and then getting wheeled outside to a cot in a tent in 95 degree weather with 10 other people who you have never met for the next 4 weeks of your life.

Another great thing about today is that we think we found a secure warehouse that we can store our products in and send them out to these groups as they need it. We are now connected with about six of the roughly 18 hospitals operating on PAP. Many of them are mobile/tent clinics that have been set-up by foreign governments and aid groups that may leave in the coming weeks and months.

The fact is that there are an amazing number of people who are down here trying to help. It’s an incredible feeling to see (and try to talk to) groups from basically six different continents. The other day as we were unloading a truck into a hospital I was doing my best to try and speak Spanish to the truck driver, French to the hospital staff, and so when a new guy walked in the door I said, “Hola,” then “Bonjour,” and ultimately he turned out to be Italian. At that point I was out of greetings.


  1. Keep writing Drew. Congrats on finding a warehouse. Good luck man!

  2. Unbelievable. It sounds like you guys are doing an incredible job. Be safe and keep the stories coming!

  3. I love this, your bravery and knowledge are reaching so many lives. I have to know...have you closed the deal at the warehouse???