| Feb 18, 2010
Someone told me today that 40% of the buildings in Port-au-Prince have been destroyed by the earthquake. I believe it.
In Leogane, a town about 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince, almost 80% of the buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Before the earthquake, Leogane had a population of about 50,000 people. The police chief estimated that 10,000 people were killed by the earthquake—20% of all of the people in the community.
I visited our mobile medical team in Leogane today. The city itself looks like it was destroyed by a bomb. Almost no buildings are standing. Those that are standing have huge cracks in them. They can’t be fixed and will have to come down.
One of the few structures still standing in Leogane is the St. Croix Hospital. It’s really a miracle. As you drive down the road, there’s a huge cross on the hospital. All around, buildings are in ruins but the building with the cross is standing.
I had the privilege of meeting with Father Fan Fan during my visit to Leogane. Father Fan Fan is the priest overseeing almost 60 churches throughout the district. He’s very concerned about his people and the community and welcomed us to join with him in efforts to address the growing health issues in the area.
With 80% of the buildings destroyed, most people in the community are living in temporary shelters. Others are also living outdoors because they are just too frightened to be in any buildings at the moment.
Our volunteer medical team in Leogane is camping in tents next to a former T-shirt factory, one of the few remaining buildings still standing. We're partnering with Khlasa Aid, which is generously providing space for a pharmacy, water and other support and is sending its own medical teams throughout the area. We're also working with a medical team from the Dominican Republic. One of the members of the Dominican team is an Aztec Indian from Mexico who was working for a Japanese group in the Dominican Republic before the earthquake. There's a true international flavor to our work here.
Our volunteer team gets to eat one warm meal a day—usually sardines and rice. Otherwise, they eat MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) that consist of high protein food but has the taste and consistency of cardboard. Even though it’s not yet the rainy season, mosquitoes are everywhere, especially at night. So, when dusk comes, our team members lather up with mosquito repellant and head for their screened tents.
Our volunteers are doing a lot of great work. As a mobile unit, they travel to areas where people have not seen any kind of medical help since the earthquake. Each day, they treat hundreds of people—many of whom are women and children. Sometimes they find someone who is very sick and injured. Other times, they identify infections and other illnesses early enough to treat these diseases before they become fatal.
We’re also starting to look at the causes of the diseases that bring people to our clinics. The sanitation system was weak already and many of the latrines were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake. Many of the communities got their water from a well at the local school. A large number of these schools have been destroyed. Malaria is a serious problem and is only going to get worse as people live in tents and the rains come.
We’ve had a public health specialist on our team in Leogane who has been interviewing families on a random basis to get a clear idea what needs to be done to prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases in the weeks ahead. We’ve talked with Father Fan Fan and will be meeting with other community leaders to ensure that any steps we take to help will be with the approval of church and community leaders and in coordination with efforts by other groups.
Our work in Leogane is a good picture of how we carry out our disaster response work around the world. We send out mobile medical teams that include our volunteers and local Haitian medical workers to meet immediate health needs. We also look for ways to address the causes of the diseases that our teams are treating. Finally, we work in partnership with churches and other faith-based groups to ensure good coordination and because we want to be sure that our efforts help to strengthen the work and presence of the local church.
It will take years for the people of Leogane to rebuild their shattered community and their shattered lives. We hope to join with them in this effort on a long-term basis. At the end of our time, we hope that people will say that they experienced the love of Christ in very real and concrete ways as a result of our work.