Frontline sharing of Haiti earthquake relief work (2/2/2010)
Feb 03, 2010
Three weeks after Haiti's devastating earthquake and it is time for Isabelle Jeanson, MSF Operational Communications Support, to depart. Saddened to leave the many patients she has met, Isabelle is touched by the dignity and solidarity the Haitian's have shown in the face of the disaster. She is, however, heartened to know that while her personal time in Haiti has come to an end, MSF's medical teams work on to provide much needed healthcare. I’ve been dreading this day because there is no easy way to say goodbye. I have developed so much affection and respect for Haitians, who carry such dignity in the face of this crippling adversity. By this time next week I’ll be working in the comfort of my office, worrying about the people I met who made a particularly deep impression. Like my little Gabrielle, who is hanging in there for her life. Or lovely 19-year old Synthia, who has a fever and is lying in our hospital bed with her wounded leg. She had given birth to her baby on January 4, but her little girl died a few days after the earthquake because, she tells me, they were cold sleeping in the street at night. I’ll be thinking about Ste-Amise and her four-month-old baby. She also waits in her hospital bed, her leg in a fixation apparatus, while her other four children live under a bed sheet in the street. I have the option of leaving Haiti, but the patients I met will wake up every morning confronting their grim reality. Our teams are expanding our medical programs. We now have several sites in Port au Prince, Leogane and Jacmel to provide not only surgical care for the wounded, but rehabilitation, skin grafting soon, therapeutic feeding for malnourished children, obstetrics, counselling and long term care to our hundreds of patients. Body wounds will heal over time, but the wounds in their heart will also need special care. Many people tell me they don’t want to think about what happened, because they don’t want to relive the terror. I spoke to a patient today, Elizabeth, who was gravely wounded but also depressed. She was quiet and withdrawn, and crying at times. The shock of her condition, of losing the few things she owned, her home, is too much for her to bear. What will be her future? Where will she live? I resent the limitations of the support I can offer. Once the physical healing has started, people will need jobs and homes to live in security. The assessment we did last week made us realize that there is hope for the people who have left Port-au-Prince. It was amazing to discover the solidarity in these small towns. Free care is provided to the earthquake survivors, in both the Dominican Republic and in Haiti; doctors have offered to volunteer their services and town mayors organized buses to pick people up from Port au Prince to bring them back to their home towns. In fact, the most beautiful thing I have observed in this disaster is the solidarity of the people. Haitians helping each other, risking their lives to pull friends and strangers from the rubble, sharing the bit of food they have, hosting dozens of homeless people in their homes in the rural areas, and looking out for each other when they sleep at night in the streets of Port-au-Prince. There is also hope now in the form of dozens of organizations who want to help in whatever way they can. Town mayors have hired hundreds of people to sweep the debris in the streets, to bring back some order and cleanliness. And people are setting up small stands to sell food stuffs in the homeless camps around the city. Life must go on. My last wish is that long after the media has turned off their cameras, that we the lucky ones don’t forget Elizabeth, Synthia, Ste-Amise, and Gabrielle. Because they will continue to bear the brunt of this disaster. The only way I can accept to leave them behind is to know that at the very least, our medical care will continue for as long as people will need it.