1 04 2010

Many people that were affected in the earthquake had family members that were living outside of Haiti. Following the earthquake these family members had no way of contacting their family members in other parts of the world. This led to a lot of turmoil on both sides of the spectrum. Thousands of people here in the United States and other parts of the world worried for days wondering if their family in Haiti was okay. I am sure as an answer to many prayers; The Red Cross has set up a special online link to help the people of Haiti to get in touch with each other. The ICRC (International Committee of Red Cross) is the committee that is sponsoring this tool.

This website is called “Family Links”. Along with the ICRC it is also managed by the Haitian Red Cross, the National societies of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies. This website gives the earthquake survivors an opportunity to publish their names, addresses, and contact numbers. It also gives people the opportunity to publish the names of their missing family members. Since the 19th of January the website has received 6,562 “I am alive” registrations and 29,378 names of missing relatives have been published. I think that this is an incredible tool. I can imagine the relief that it has brought to thousands of people as they are able to find out about their family members.


Mental Health

1 04 2010

Since the earthquake I have thought a lot about the physical health consequences that it had upon the people in Haiti. I have seen many graphic pictures and videos depicting the horrible toll that the earthquake had upon the nation. Tonight I was reflecting upon the emotional and psychological damage that the people must be dealing with right now. Reports right after the earthquake talked about all the bodies lining the streets. Millions of people lost mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, and other close relatives and friends. Now, months after the earthquake they are dealing with the emotional scars that have been forever imprinted upon them. A recent article that I read reported that one in five victims have suffered so much trauma that they won’t be able to deal with it without the help of professional doctors. This presents a great problem seeing as before the earthquake mental health services were very scarce in Haiti. Port-au-Prince’s only has one psychiatric hospital and it is barely functioning. This may be because mental illness is not very accepted in the Haitian culture. There are usually more prominent or pressing physical illnesses that cause more damage, leaving the mental illnesses to be looked over. Before the earthquake those that were suffering from mental illnesses would often not admit to it. This attitude only adds to a greater need for mental health doctors after the earthquake.

An official with the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs, Pierre Bruanache Jr., said “”The most urgent need … is not food and water which is temporary. The most urgent need is for psychiatrists.” One of the hardest things for these people to cope with is knowing that their loved ones are buried some where beneath a building and not being able to properly grieve for those whom they have lost. There is no closure for these people who doing even have the chance to give them a proper funeral. Another worry is that these mental health problems with affect their physical health. Major stress often leads to heart disease and hypertension. I hope that in time Haiti will have the rescources available for all to receive help. This is something that these people will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. It will be a long road toward healing. Many of these psychological scars will not go away or fade without the help of train medical professionals.

Utah Haiti Relief

1 04 2010

As I have been doing this blog I have wanted to find some stories that were close to home here in Utah. I had heard about different groups/doctors from Utah going over to Haiti and offering medical attention. One of these groups that I found went to Haiti on January 28th.  This group is called Utah Haiti Relief. The coalition is made up of a group of charity foundations, health care professionals, and volunteers who want to help save lives of people in Haiti. No one in this group is getting paid for what they are doing. This group takes donations and 100% of the donations go straight to Haiti. They have set up a camp on the outskirts of Port Au Prince where they are able to help people that have no access to medical services. This team had the unique opportunity to be sought out by the Secretary of State for the Dominican Republic and offered assistance and security to help their efforts.

One thing that this group is trying to build is a women’s center to house women and their children. This is specifically designed for women who were severely injured in the earthquake and no longer available to take proper care of their children. At this center the women will receive training on how to care for their new disability. This center is scheduled to be completed by the end of March! When I read this I got so excited. After reading about all of the reports of rape and violence that the women face, I think that a place like this is exactly what they need. I am glad that people are reaching out to protect women who cannot protect themselves. I also feel like this is a public health upstream strategy. They are going to teach women how to cope with their disabilities and prevent future problems. I love public health! I look forward to following more of what this group is accomplishing. For further information about this group go to

Haitian Orphans

1 04 2010

I know that I have already talked about children in Haiti and how the earthquake has affected them but now I want to talk about a more specific group of children and that is the orphans. These children didn’t have any family to look out for them in the first place. Along with children dying in the earthquake, many of the orphanages were destroyed. In order to understand the magnitude of the problem after the earthquake, you must know how it was before the earthquake even happened. In 2007 the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), estimated that there were 380,000 orphans in Haiti. It is a very sad situation. Many children are left there by their parents because their parents can’t afford to take care of them. Considering these high numbers you would think that there would be a lot of orphanages. But as of last summer there were only 100 licensed orphanages in the whole country. Most of these kids that are describe as orphans don’t even live in proper establishments.

After the earthquake many orphans who already who’s papers were already far along in the adoption process were evacuated to the United States. I read an article from CNN that stated that many groups such as Save the Children, World Vision, and a unit of the British Red Cross issued a statement that asked them to stop any new adoptions of Haitian children. They did this with the fear of separating families that otherwise could be reunited together. This could create a whole new set of problems aside from the trauma that they have already faced with the earthquake. In this same article, Ann Veneman, UNICEF’s executive director said, “Every effort will be made to reunite children with their families. Only if that proves impossible, and after proper screening has been carried out, should permanent alternatives like adoption be considered by the relevant authorities.” Another problem that these orphans may face is child trafficking or exploitation. Many orphans were being trafficked before the earthquake. Many fear that the earthquake just increased these rates. It is so sad to think of these orphans with no place to go. While I see that it we must be careful not to take them away from their parents I believe that getting them to a home where they can be provided for and protected is very important. All the talk about rape and child trafficking is very scary to me—aside from these children possibly dying from starvation or other possible disease. I hope that we are doing all that we can as a country to get those children who are “true” orphans out of the country as fast as possible.

USNS Comfort

28 03 2010

Among the different services that have come to the aid of Haiti since the earthquake is the USNS Comfort. This is a United Sates Navy ship that is the third to bear the name Comfort. The ship is non-commisioned and owned by the Navy. Comfort is a hospital ship that provides emergency care to different areas of the world during times of war or disaster. It is about 70,000 tons and is bigger than the Navy’s biggest battleship.  Comfort is kept in Baltimore harbor. The United States Department of Defense talked about all the preparations that were needed to get this ship ready to take care of the people. There had to be a huge effort to load all of the water, food, and medical provisions that were going to be needed on the mission. The USNS Comfort was quick to respond to the crisis and left Baltimore on January 16th 2010 directed toward Haiti. It arrived there on the 20th of January. Doctors aboard the ship have dealt with all kinds of medical problems. People have come to the ship who were crushed under rubble, with various infections, and different preexisting diseases that were only made worse by the earthquake and lack of medical services.

One article that I read in USAToday talked about one of the ship’s doctors named, Mill Etienne, has proved to be a great asset to the ship. He was born in Haiti and fled from there with his parents when he was six years old. He is fluent in Creole and has been able to create materials for other doctors to use in order to converse with the native Haitian people. Etienne is also chairman of the ships medical ethics committee. I am sure that he had know idea of the help he was going to be to the ship before the earthquake. It would be a great/sobering opportunity to take care of the people where you came from. He says “I joined the Navy not to serve Haiti but to serve the United States; it’s an interesting irony that I can serve both in one mission.”

The USNS Comfort completed its relief mission on March 9, 2010. Its presence was a huge blessing to the country considering medical help on the island was in such high demand and so scarce. I love being part of a country that is not just content in helping its own country but also strives to help other countries in their times of despair.

The American Red Cross

28 03 2010

There have been many organizations that have gone to the aid of Haiti following the aftermath of the earthquake. People from all over the world have been working to save and rebuild the lives of the Haitian people. One of these organizations that have responded graciously in service is the American Red Cross. This association was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton. Since then it has been America’s leading emergency response organization. This organization does not just offer its services to America but also offers help to all those around the world that suffer from not only natural disasters but from war. Of every dollar that the Red Cross spends, 92 cents of it goes directly to humanitarian services and programs.

The Red Cross has been an enormous help to the people of Haiti since the earthquake. It has helped almost 1.9 million Haitians since the disaster on January 12th.  Along with that they have spent $106.4 million on the needs of the people after the earthquake. As I was looking on their website talking about Haiti I found this lost of all the things that they have done since the earthquake. It is amazing what this organization has been able to do due to the donations of people across the country.

In the two months since the earthquake, the global Red Cross network has:

  • Provided relief items for 400,000 people.
  • Handed out nearly 99,000 tarps, tents and toolkits.
  • Supplied meals for more than 1 million people.
  • Distributed 40 million liters of clean drinking water.
  • Built more than 1,100 latrines.
  • Helped vaccinate more than 125,000 people.
  • Coordinated the shipment of more than 1,800 units of blood to medical facilities.
  • Treated more than 55,000 people at Red Cross hospitals or mobile clinics.
  • Sent more than 23 million text messages with critical health advice to survivors.
  • Received more than 28,400 registrations on its family linking Web site.
  • Assisted more than 25,000 people who arrived in the U.S. following the earthquake.
  • Deployed more than 600 responders to Haiti.

Rape in Haiti

28 03 2010

Months after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the country is still agonizing over many problems that continue to fill the streets and camps. One of these problems is women falling victim to rape. Since the earthquake, rape cases have skyrocketed. This may be due to the fact that the atmosphere in which many live right now is perfect for men looking for a victim. The places are crowded, there is no lighting, and very little security is being offered in the camps. Another cause of this increase could be because 7,000 prisoners escaped during the quake. Rape is another problem that was already big before the earthquake happened but has been magnified by the recent turmoil that the earthquake has caused.  There are thousands of women that have been left to protect themselves. They have lost their husbands, sons, and brothers. Many of these cases of rape have gone unreported because the women are scared of the social stigma that comes with being a rape victim. Another reason for not reporting them is because most of them time their attackers live in the same camp and they are scared of reporting them. There are different reports that once rape is reported nothing can really be done about it because of the instability of the country right now. It breaks my heart to think of all these women have gone through and then to think that they can’t even be protected from rape. Alison Thompson who is a volunteer medical coordinator for a Haitian relief group said in an article in The Huffington Post that “Women aren’t being protected,” Thompson said. “So when the lights go down is when the rapes increase, and it’s happening daily in all the camps in Port-au-Prince.” Aside from the psychological consequences of being raped, these women face the risk of pregnancy, STDs, and HIV/Aids.

There are some groups in Port-au-Prince that have offered help and support to rape victims. One of these groups is KOFAVIV (Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim, The Commission of Women Victims for Victims). These women have all been victims of raped and aim at helping others cope with rape and abuse. This organization was started in 2004 by a group of women who had been raped and wanted to take a stand for human rights. These women help each other deal with the physical and emotional challenges that come from being raped. Their offices were destroyed in the earthquake and so they now work out of a tent. They have been bringing victims of rape to American lawyers that may plead their case. In a country where the number of rapes is increasing groups like this are greatly needed. It is frustrating to me that more can’t be done to stop the violence and abuse. I wonder if the officials are fully aware of this growing problem. In a country where the number of rapes is increasing groups like KOFAVIV are greatly needed.