Team 1 Day 6 Update Kyla

Port au Prince, Jan. 24, 2010, 10:30 PM — Today Thomas went to the UN to network with people and organizations there, while the rest of the team went out into city. They didn't find many patients today because between yesterday's update and today's there has been "a huge flood of medical personnel" into Port au Prince, which, from meetings with the UN, they anticipate to "continue for the next week or so."

With Port au Prince "saturated" with medical personnel, Team 1 is working to get out of the city. Thousands of Haitians are leaving Port au Prince because the government is providing free transportation to anyone who will leave. Many of these people are leaving having had only basic primary medical care, or none at all. Worse, much of that care is, Hexe explained, "crappy — the wounds we've been seeing while doing secondary care I would call malpractice — very, very badly done wound care, sutures that are only making things worse, putting casts over open fractures that are then getting infected so then people have to lose legs."

TEAMS COORDINATING IN HAITI

Today Team 1 met with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief's second team, Ekip Bon Fwa (équipe bon foi — team good faith), and made plans tomorrow to check up on a tent city while they work out logistics; at 2pm both will meet, debrief, and come up with plans.

RANDOM STUFF

  • Port au Prince Tent Cities: As of yesterday, 100 of the 500 tent cities were receiving care. As of today (with influx of med volunteers), ALL are receiving med care now. Hexe said, "When we scouted and talked to people [in tent cities], they all said that a different doctor had come by twice today, or at least one doctor had been by."
  • The team filled out a UN requisition form for for drugs and supplies

QUESTION:

Where is help is needed outside Port au Prince?? Please reply to Kyla with specific locations ASAP.

FOOD/RIOTS

Hexe and I talked about reports on TV of food riots during aid distribution. She shared frustrations. "No one is rioting for food, but you have very very hungry people and distributing food is difficult because people are so hungry. It's difficult for us because we cannot give people our food and water because it might start a riot." I asked her to clarify, and she went on that she "hasn't seen anyone actually riot but the situation has been when people try to give people things, there's suddenly a group of 10-15 people who think the people [handing out food] have more than they do. As far as US media calling people rioters and looters, I think that's a bunch of bullshit because people are really really hungry and thirsty and don't have a lot of options and are going to turn to anyone who has what they need. It's messed up because we've been to the UN compound and told how much [supplies] the military is bringing in and they're doing a bad job distributing it. There's resources that aren't being distributed, and people who are taking those resources, and there are people who aren't getting them."

REFLECTION

Hexe went on, saying she can't give an accurate, total picture because "we've been sheltered, driven around everywhere, and babysat — it's not safe to be walking around and we don’t have a whole lot of information and don't have a strong enough connection with people here as if, say we [all] spoke Creole. This is nothing like New Orleans after Katrina: we are playing ball with the UN, we don't speak the language and we're horribly hampered by that."

She continued, "Today was a day we sat back and looked at the situation and realized we're becoming less and less effective and less useful. We're figuring out logistics. We've been having a hard time finding patients. Our team is very trauma heavy, our expertise is treating trauma patients, and since there is now so many medical personnel, there’s little use for us. We've been doing secondary care on wounds and broken bones and transporting to hospitals for surgery. Now we're trying to find more ways to do that and branch into other avenues, but we're not sure what those are yet." Jeff added, "We need to get the hell out of the capital."

MENTAL HEALTH (with some editorialising from Kyla)

Today both Hexe and Jeff told me "we didn't do very much today," which was "frustrating." I reminded them that as of tonight, they've been in Haiti six days, working non-stop treating people, scouting, setting up links with the UN, handling the emotional strain of a week spent witnessing this natural and human caused disaster, general culture shock, and the several days of little sleep they spent before they even arrived in Haiti getting their shots, supplies, flights, and everything in order to get to Haiti within days of the earthquake. That this is the first day that they haven't accomplished multitudes more than they accomplished the day before is FINE. Hexe was a little stunned and glad to realize that.

I strongly suggested they consider a day off tomorrow. Shockingly, they agreed. Tomorrow they plan to spend the latter half of the day debriefing and coordinating with Ekip Bon Fwa (our 2nd team), which will include extra time to relax and collect. Jeff also said that since after 6 or 7pm they are inside and can't treat people, from "then on is hanging out. We spend good hours sitting on our gravel pile" in front of the orphanage compound.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief's aftercare working group has already contacted me to prepare the ground for easing this team's return to the States in a little over a week. I just wanted to remind everyone that taking the time to chill, emote, and help each other is what will allow this group to be sustainable, and help sustain us as activists.

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