Monday, September 6, 2021

Haiti: Earthquake and COVID-19 Update

The Ofatma Hospital in Les Cayes. Earthquake victims are cared for on the porch due to cracks in the internal walls. Photo Fernando Liano.

At 8:30 am on Saturday morning, August 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southern peninsula of Haiti, 78 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The strong shallow quake destroyed homes, schools, roads, and other infrastructure. While rescue workers continue to dig through the debris, Haitian officials report hundreds of individuals are missing, thousands have died, and tens of thousands of people are displaced and in need of shelter and access to water and food. 

 Dr. MichaelViola, Director of MFP, stated, “Although we are relieved that Medicine For Peace personnel and facilities in Gros Morne were unharmed in the earthquake, we are deeply concerned about residents in the Les Cayes region. We are closely monitoring recovery efforts and are providing support to colleagues caring for survivors.” 

 Multiple overlapping crises are complicating efforts to rapidly provide relief to the region. Within days of the earthquake, Tropical Storm Grace pelted the area with heavy rains causing mudslides and road closures. Of further concern, heavily armed gangs have blocked convoys of relief supplies from reaching the affected area, abducted relief workers, and demanded ransom. Moreover, President Jovenel Moise’s recent assassination has left an ineffective interim government in place. However, corrupt politicians and street gangs do not reflect the Haitian people who display inordinate courage during times of disaster. 

 Despite the painfully slow mobilization of international and Haitian-based relief efforts, injured patients are being treated by local medical groups, field hospitals have been opened to care for trauma victims, food and water have been delivered, and sturdy tents have arrived to protect displaced residents from harsh rains. 

 At the same time, Haiti is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and coronavirus-related deaths. One hopeful note: Haiti recently received 500,000 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and rapidly established distribution centers throughout the country. We are pleased to announce that on August 10, Alma Mater Hospital in Gros Morne initiated its vaccination program. 

Michael Viola, MD 
MFP Medicine For Peace