Orthodox News from Haiti

This information comes my way via several blogs. As I mentioned in a previous post there are several Orthodox Churches in Haiti and about 3,000 faithful. It appears that all survived with some injuries. What follows is a first hand account:

Dear Fr. Victor,

I arrived in the Dominican Republic on Friday, Jan 15, determined to provide as much aid to Haiti as possible. At the time that I left the US, we had received no word from the clergy in Haiti. Thank God, while I was en route to Haiti, we received word that the clergy were alive and in good health and that there were no confirmed fatalities among the parishioners.

Due to many complications, it was only Monday when I arrived in Port-au-prince, by which time I had been joined by a German medical officer, Lars Stuewe, who practices medicine in Belfast Ireland. After some discussion of the obvious need, he decided that he would like to work with our Mission to provide medical attention to our parishioners and the surrounding communities.
We arrived late Monday night, driving through large areas that had been destroyed to such an extent that no one remained in those places. Other places, large groups of people would be gathered in outdoor camps, sleeping on the ground without shelter.

On Tuesday, the feast of Theophany, we opened a small clinic near Fr. Gregoire`s home, where we were able to treat 42 patients with medical supplies purchased by FFA that we brought with us from the DR. A few patients were treated after dark, with stitches being performed by flashlight. Careful records were kept for every patient and health cards were issued to help reduce the risk of duplicated health care. Twenty patients were referred to the hospital due to injuries that we did not have materials or equipment to treat. Unfortunately, the situation with the hospitals appears dire, as we were finding that patients with complicated fractures were being turned away from the hospitals due to lack of space. However, the need for a more significant clinic at Fr. Gregoire`s home in Fontamara appeared limited, and we determined to assess the situation in other areas, including Jacmel. At that time there was news that no aid had yet arrived in Jacmel, a city of 110,000.

While Lars was treating the patients, I made initial contacts at the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) and learned that the UN assessment of public health would only begin assessments of the situation on the ground on Friday, Jan. 22.

On Wednesday morning we were awakened by a second quake measured at 6.1. The house we were in was undamaged, but other houses in the area were seriously damaged. After resolving numerous logistical issues, we began the long and arduous task of locating the WHO medical supply warehouse. The medical director and pharmacist were very supportive and issued the required drugs and medications after verifying our charity status and practitioners license. We received adequate medical supplies to treat 1000 patients. Further medical supplies can be obtained now as needed. Immediately we headed toward Jacmel from whence we had received word that 30 members of the parish of St Augustine were sick and wounded. By this time we had also learned that the Canadian military was on site in Jacmel, but were unable to determine what, if any, aid they were providing. Arriving in Jacmel late in the evening, we immediately began the task of assessing the situation here. Everywhere we went, we received contradictory reports or even total lack of knowledge of the situation. On the one hand, we repeatedly heard report of 2,000 fatalities, yet at the hospital there were only 83 patients. The senior house officer (SHO) there reports that he is the medical officer in charge and has 17 more medical staff. However, they have no X-Ray film and no orthopedic surgeon. Therefore they cannot provide any bone surgery at that hospital. They were assessed several times by various organizations, but have received no medical supplies and is running short of antibiotics and pain relieve such as morphine, etc. They have received food and water from the World Food Program (WFP). At the Police station no useful information could be obtained at all — not even the population of the city. At the Canadian base, the situation was similar — they were not even aware of whether they were providing any medical care to the area. Our last visit on Wednesday was to the football field where an IDP camp has been set up and appears to be housing approximately 800 families. There we learned that medical treatment was being provided by Canadian doctors. Which organization they are from and what type of treatment they are providing is yet to be determined, as the local representative of the United Nations did not know the answers to these questions.

Today, Thursday, Jan 21, we will be completing the assessment of Jacmel and meeting with the mayor and other personell whose contact information we received from the hotel. We will also meet with the faithful at the church for prayer. After this we will make a decision as to whether the parish and others in the area are in fact in need of our medical care. This decision will determine whether we move on now to other parishes or stay here.

We have the opportunity, with sufficient funding, to establish a permanent clinic with Lars as the directing medical officer. Here is a brief note from Lars:

I have experience in Emergency Medicine and Pre-Hospital Care. I graduated in 2003 in Germany with a BSc in Medicine and Anaesthesia. After my internship I served as an Officer to the Olympic Games in Athens as a Teamleader in the HOC and OLV. After the Tsunami I was deployed by the German Medical NGO EMT International Aid to Sri Lanka (Trincomalee) in the early days with a response team. We provided Emergency Response in affiliation with the catholic church. We treated more than 5000 patients initially. For the long term we built a Medical Centre in the Holy Cross Grounds (caritas funding), During the building period I provided Medical Aid to the public and the international community. In the rising violence and full scale of war, I was appointed UN-MEDEVAC leader. I was acting Chief for the Field Hospital in Kantale during the defense action on Mutur district. I have the expertise to deal on all kinds of Trauma and Tropical diseases. I am familiar with Primary Care and Minor surgical procedures in difficult environments.

The situation in Haiti is worse than expected. Due to no coordination, lack in communication and planning, the situation is extremely difficult to find the right location to set up treatment to avoid duplication. I recommend a long term project. In what way it has to be determined. Initially I see importance to help the suffering and injured people wherever help is needed.

I will attempt to prepare a rough proposal as to the cost of such a project as soon as possible.
A brief summary of the situation in each parish follows:

In Port-au-prince, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin is still standing but damaged. One reader, Vladimir, is missing and cannot be located. There are no confirmed casualties in the parish. The school operated by Fr. Jean was completely destroyed, along with his home and vehicle.

At Fontamara, Fr Gregoire`s home withstood both quakes, but the chapel of St Moses sustained some damage. The school operated by Fr Gregoire is damages as well.

At Jacmel the house where services are held is standing without damage. About 30 of the parishioners are injured, with three admitted to the hospital.

At Leogogne, the Church of Sts Peter and Paul and many houses were destroyed, but no details regarding the situation of the faithful is available.

The parishes in Cayes, Cap Haitien, and Maissade were unaffected.

Later today I will meet with an organization (I don`t have the exact name) that is working with IOCC. They are receiving a container today from IOCC with aid for the parishes.

In summary, the situation is very complicated and chaotic. Even within our parishes, We are determined to provide aid to the faithful and to the population at large. I will continue to report on our activity.

Please pray for all of us here.
In Christ,
Dcn Matthew

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