Posts Tagged 'Haití'

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: Dismantling the monoculture mentality.

“Young people today are more critical than they were in the seventies,” Adolfo Pérez Esquivel observes, much to the contrary of what the majority of his generation thinks. He was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 during the middle of the Argentine military dictatorship. He was working with the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and was educated as an architect and a sculptor. But he dedicated most of this time to teaching—he taught in primary and secondary schools and also in colleges.

In 1974 he gave up teaching to coordinate a network of Latin American communities for the liberation of the poor through nonviolence. That same year he founded El Servicio Paz y Justicia (The Peace and Justice Service, or Serpaj) and in 1977 he was arrested by the Federal Police, tortured and detained without trial for 14 months. In the conference he gave in Montevideo on the 13th of March, he explained that human rights are violated when people don’t have access to a healthy environment and secure food sources because a “speculative economy” of monoculture farming and mining is privileged over an “economy of production.” What follows is a summary of the conversation we had.

Raúl Zibechi– People talk about the changes seen under progressive governments, but we hear less about the continuities that exist from earlier periods.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel– Neoliberal policies are still in effect. The economic policies imposed by the dictators and continued during the Washington Consensus have remained to the present day and have even become more profound. There were important changes regarding the impunity laws that we had been demanding for many years. Néstor Kirchner’s political will was necessary for parliament to annul the impunity laws. What we should take away from this is that Argentina is the only country in the world that has been able to prosecute people who committed crimes against humanity through the common justice system. The Nuremburg and the Tokyo War Crime Trials were ad hoc tribunals formed to judge these crimes. And we’ve also been able to keep these cases from passing through the military justice system. That’s why I say that there were considerable advances even though we continue to work to enhance them. The other question is about how and from where we approach human rights, because there is an ideological reduction related to what I call olvidos intencionados (intentional forgetting). Human rights are addressed as far as they relate to the dictatorship, but there is no reference made to the previous and subsequent periods. This reductionism is about more than, and goes beyond, legal impunity.

– What are the main human rights violations in Latin America today?

– For example, environmental issues, everything related to mega mining, monoculture farming of eucalyptus and soy that affect peasants and indigenous people and also impact poverty and hunger issues generally. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently reported that 35 thousand children die of hunger each day across the world. The loss of resources like water and biodiversity caused by mining and monoculture farming is very much related to hunger and malnutrition. I think that agrochemicals, cyanide and mercury contamination, to give two examples, are violations of human rights.

In the reductionist vision it’s very uncommon to see a focus on the rights of a people, not just on individuals but on communities, peasants, indigenous people, the inhabitants of a city, when they are confronted with the impact of the contamination of what they eat, drink and breathe. Generally speaking, governments prioritize financial capital over peoples’ lives. They don’t differentiate between a productive economy and one that is speculative and virtual. How can it be that in the stock market everything revolves around the rising and falling of prices? That’s not a real economy because there’s no work or production there. That economy is not interested in damages because it doesn’t depend on what is produced or consumed. I’m not against mining, but I am against any destructive activity. Oscar Wilde said that there are those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Price and value aren’t the same. And what’s missing here is that certain things aren’t given a value.

– Some people would say that has to do with politics and economics, not with human rights.

– I was in the United Nations World Summit in Vienna in 1993. One of the proposals that the General Assembly took up referred to the third generation of human rights. That means things like the environment, development and self-determination. This third generation was included to complete the full range of human rights policies in our society.

– Beyond some resolutions like article 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), this isn’t being respected anywhere in the world.

– Not only is it not being respected, but the opposite is being done. Native land is being destroyed to plant soy or eucalyptus, to use just two examples, and this is causing the desertification of the planet. Gold is extracted, leaving environmental liabilities and contaminated water sources. Millions of liters of water are polluted with mercury and cyanide. That is contamination that will last for generations. This means we must change the concept of development, it can’t be synonymous with the exploitation of nature or of people. If the idea is to live like they do in the developed countries, we’ve been backed into a corner.

– The movement for human rights in Latin America was successful in sentencing and punishing those who tortured, disappeared and committed crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, it isn’t successful in areas related to the third generation of rights.

– Many human rights organizations have concentrated on the era of the dictatorships, maybe because they are direct family members of the victims, but they’ve remained fixated on this objective. I respect them very much, and I don’t criticize them, but when one sees the consequences of the devastation and the poverty of millions in the world in the name of robbing natural resources, then it becomes necessary to think a little more. We are suffering through an economic genocide for the sake of obtaining gold, diamonds, oil, at the very same moment when technological breakthroughs have allowed us the ability to eliminate worldwide hunger. Haiti’s situation is a good example. I’ve travelled many times to the island, and one sees a situation of total and atrocious misery, extreme poverty in the greater part of the population. There are no forests any more, nature has been destroyed. But there are thousands of soldiers there who don’t resolve anything.

– Still, nowhere in the world have people been able to put alternatives into practice that are capable of combating these tendencies. Even worse, in Europe, which was the region of the world with the least inequality, the social welfare state is being taken apart. How are we to proceed when even countries that defend the idea of Buen Vivir (living well) like Bolivia and Venezuela, are taking part in mining?

– The first thing we must do is overcome the monocultivo de las mentes (monoculture mentality) that quashes us and degrades us. If not, we will be repeating the same mechanisms because we arrive at the fact that governments like those of Evo and Correa aren’t finding alternatives for their own people. Actually, and this is the second problem, countries have lost sovereignty, and you’ll find that the most important policies are the ones imposed by big multinational corporations that have a colossal concentration of power and the capacity to impose decisions on governments. In Argentina, mega mining is taking 97 per cent of resources and leaving just three per cent for the rest of the country. Whose reaping the benefits of mining? Because in addition to the environmental damage, small and medium-sized producers are hurt because their products are going to return less profit.

– But the monoculture farming that you’re denouncing is not just focused on people in the government but on the populations that wish to consume. I mean to say that as long as we’re prisoners of a culture that measures everything via property, there are not many ways out of the dilemma you’re describing.

– There are some possibilities, there are practices like organic farming, recovered factories and a ton of experiences related to the rational use of water and energy that still haven’t acquired a political weight so as to influence the design of a new society. Yes, it’s true, we’re still far from coming up with an alternative. Universities have a great responsibility in this, but a good part of their students aspire to work for multinationals.

– You started teaching before the dictatorship and then you went back when it was over. Now you’re a social sciences professor at the University of Buenos Aires. What is your impression of the current generation if you compare it to the one you knew before the dictatorship?

– It’s very different. They question things more, they’re more critical.

– A lot of people have the opposite impression, in the sense that young people used to be more critical and committed.

– In the sixties and seventies young people had more of an ideological framework regarding processes of liberation, the class struggle, they had a very rational discourse, but there were many café table revolutionaries who would not take that with them when they left the bar. I see the youth of today as more analytical, more critical.

– What do you mean by that? Are you saying that because a good part of folks from the sixties are in the government now?

– No, not at all. I think that science and technology brought about changes in thought, in societies, in humanity in general. We can observe an acceleration of mechanical time that contradicts the natural time in which people have always lived as well as our human rhythms. It’s partly due to this acceleration that we’re living an informational impact which impedes thought or makes the process of thought, which is always reflective, more difficult. I’m talking about information saturation.

– Some neurologists posit that the mind doesn’t think with information, but rather with ideas.

– Exactly. That’s why it’s important to make time for reflection in order for critical consciousness to develop. This has led to changing perceptions of the world and this is the purpose of thought, something that is not so obvious anymore. Reflection implies certain rhythms and these rhythms have changed in a radical way. If the computer takes three seconds more than usual to open a page, that’s a big drama. Human relationships tend to be dominated by these ways of experiencing time. Consequently, reflection and contemplation don’t have the time and space they have had in the history of humanity.

– But you’ve said that the youth of today is more critical.

– While it may seem strange or contradictory, critical attitudes and dissatisfaction come about with incredible rapidity, almost immediately. Young people today, unlike the university students of the past, don’t know what’s going to happen to them tomorrow, they live with a great deal of uncertainty, they know that only a small majority among them has a future and they live in the most absolute professional and existential precariousness. It’s unclear what their place in the world is or will be. And they question their teachers in a very natural way. Sometimes they ask very serious questions. Are the dictatorships over in Latin America? Depending on the perspective that you take, the question is absolutely legitimate. With the excuse of drug trafficking, armies are on the streets again in Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Colombia.

– What are you observing regionally in Latin American?

– The most important thing is that there aren’t static societies any more, but rapid and profound processes of change. Before, dynasties lasted for centuries, now everything is about change. It’s part of the temporal acceleration we talked about. In Latin America, there is an interesting situation, there is autonomous thought, there is the construction of regional unity that has contributed to avoiding military coups like in Ecuador. All around the world regional blocs are getting stronger and we’re doing the same thing here, because it’s the only way we can hope to eventually stop being a back patio. It’s crucial to limit multinationals. That’s very difficult and always fails, as we saw in the United States when the government wanted to limit the power of Wall Street.

– Are we coming into a new cycle of struggle, now against mining and in the defense of common goods like water?

– That’s where our lives are going, into the defense of these common goods. In years past, the dictatorship threatened our lives, but now life depends on the right of people to decide how they want to live and what they’re going to do with non-renewable resources. That’s why the first ones to react were the peasants and the indigenous people, and also women. I’m convinced that the silent struggle of women is leading them to take positions in all areas, in science, politics, in participation on any level. The women’s movement is really fascinating because besides all their potential it implies another way of thinking. Women and indigenous people are emerging in the terrain of cultural identities. They are the signs of hope that we have, because domination begins with culture and these sectors are the ones that offer a different way of looking at the world.

– You’re an optimist.

– Very much so. As I said, I believe in young people, in the enormous number of girls and boys who work and who study at night to make a way for themselves, to search for their path. They’re the force that can change this.

– You’re almost 80 and have given almost 60 to this cause. Do you ever feel hopeless when you think about all that’s left to do?

– I chose a way to live, no one chose this life for me. I’m austere, I spend little even though I travel a lot. I’m not interested in doing anything else. We’ve lived through difficult things, but I feel very satisfied to have done something so that many people can reclaim hope and the sense of their own identities, these things are part of the path to liberation. Human rights are not an aspirin to calm the pain of the other, they are a path to collective and personal freedom, because no one can be happy alone.

Our role in Haiti’s plight

Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti’s capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it’s no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone. Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.

The country has faced more than its fair share of catastrophes. Hundreds died in Port-au-Prince in an earthquake back in June 1770, and the huge earthquake of 7 May 1842 may have killed 10,000 in the northern city of Cap ­Haitien alone. Hurricanes batter the island on a regular basis, mostly recently in 2004 and again in 2008; the storms of September 2008 flooded the town of Gonaïves and swept away much of its flimsy infrastructure, killing more than a thousand people and destroying many thousands of homes. The full scale of the destruction resulting from this earthquake may not become clear for several weeks. Even minimal repairs will take years to complete, and the long-term impact is incalculable.

What is already all too clear, ­however, is the fact that this impact will be the result of an even longer-term history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment. Haiti is routinely described as the “poorest country in the western hemisphere“. This poverty is the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression.

The noble “international community” which is currently scrambling to send its “humanitarian aid” to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti’s people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s phrase) “from absolute misery to a dignified poverty” has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.

Aristide’s own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country.

Haiti is now a country where, according to the best available study, around 75% of the population “lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% – four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day”. Decades of neoliberal “adjustment” and neo-imperial intervention have robbed its government of any significant capacity to invest in its people or to regulate its economy. Punitive international trade and financial arrangements ensure that such destitution and impotence will remain a structural fact of Haitian life for the foreseeable future.

It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 1970s, relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti’s agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums. Although there are no reliable statistics, hundreds of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines. The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is itself no more “natural” or accidental than the extent of the injuries they have suffered.

As Brian Concannon, the director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, points out: “Those people got there because they or their parents were intentionally pushed out of the countryside by aid and trade policies specifically designed to create a large captive and therefore exploitable labour force in the cities; by definition they are people who would not be able to afford to build earthquake resistant houses.” Meanwhile the city’s basic infrastructure – running water, electricity, roads, etc – remains woefully inadequate, often non-existent. The government’s ability to mobilise any sort of disaster relief is next to nil.

The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission’s mandate beyond its immediate military purpose. Proposals to divert some of this “investment” towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked, in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the ­distribution of international “aid”.

The same storms that killed so many in 2008 hit Cuba just as hard but killed only four people. Cuba has escaped the worst effects of neoliberal “reform”, and its government retains a capacity to defend its people from disaster. If we are serious about helping Haiti through this latest crisis then we should take this comparative point on board. Along with sending emergency relief, we should ask what we can do to facilitate the self-empowerment of Haiti’s people and public institutions. If we are serious about helping we need to stop ­trying to control Haiti’s government, to pacify its citizens, and to exploit its economy. And then we need to start paying for at least some of the damage we’ve already done.

Nuestro papel en el trance haitiano

Cualquier gran ciudad del mundo habría sufrido daños considerables por un terremoto como el que asoló la capital haitiana en la tarde del martes, pero no es ningún accidente que buena parte de la ciudad de Puerto Príncipe parezca ahora una zona de guerra. Gran parte de la devastación causada por la más reciente y desastrosa calamidad que ha golpeado a Haití se comprende mejor como el resultado de una larga e infame secuencia de acontecimientos históricos causados por el hombre.

El país ya ha tenido que enfrentar más catástrofes de las que en justicia le corresponden. Cientos de personas perecieron en Puerto Príncipe por un terremoto en junio de 1770, y el gigantesco terremoto del 7 de mayo de 1842 pudo matar a 10.000 personas solamente en la ciudad norteña de Cabo Haitiano. Los huracanes golpean a la isla con regularidad, los más recientes en 2004 y 2008; las tormentas del año 2008 inundaron la ciudad de Gonaives y destruyeron la mayor parte de su frágil infraestructura, matando a más de mil personas y destruyendo varios miles de viviendas. La extensión del actual desastre puede que no se conozca hasta dentro de varias semanas. Incluso reparaciones mínimas pueden tardar años en completarse, y el impacto a largo plazo es incalculable.

Sin embargo, lo que ya está bastante claro es que ese impacto será el resultado de un proceso histórico aún más largo de debilitamiento y empobrecimiento deliberado. Haití se suele describir rutinariamente como “el país más pobre del hemisferio occidental”. Esa pobreza es el legado directo del que tal vez haya sido el sistema de explotación colonial más brutal de la historia, agravado por decenios de sistemática opresión poscolonial.

La noble “comunidad internacional” que en estos momentos se prepara con gran estruendo para enviar su “ayuda humanitaria” a Haití es en gran parte responsable de la extensión del sufrimiento que ahora quiere aliviar. Desde la invasión y ocupación norteamericana de 1925, cada tentativa política seria de permitir que el pueblo haitiano pudiera pasar (en la frase del anterior presidente Aristide) “de la miseria absoluta a la pobreza digna”, ha sido bloqueado deliberada y violentamente por el gobierno de EEUU y algunos de sus aliados.

El propio gobierno de Aristide (elegido aproximadamente por el 75% del electorado) fue la última víctima de esa injerencia al ser derrocado en 2004 por un golpe patrocinado internacionalmente en el año 2004, que mató a varios miles de personas y dejó gran parte del país hundida en resentimiento. Las ONU ha mantenido en el país desde entonces una enorme y muy onerosa fuerza militar de pacificación.

Haití es hoy un país donde, según el mejor estudio disponible, cerca de 75% de la población “vive con menos de 2 dólares al día, y el 56% -cuatro millones y medio de personas– vive con menos de 1 dólar diario”. Decenios de “ajuste” neoliberal e intervención neoimperial han despojado al país de cualquier porción significativa de capacidad para invertir en su pueblo o regular su economía. Condiciones punitivas de comercio y financiación internacional garantizan la permanencia, en un futuro previsible, de esa indigencia e impotencia como hechos estructurales de la vida haitiana.

Es exactamente esa pobreza e impotencia lo que explica la extensión del actual horror en Puerto Príncipe. Desde los últimos años de la década de los 70, un implacable asalto neoliberal a la economía agraria de Haití ha obligado a decenas de miles de pequeños agricultores a trasladarse a viviendas informales y deficientes, a menudo encaramadas en las faldas de barrancos deforestados. La selección de la gente que vive en tales lugares no es en si misma más “natural” o accidental que la extensión de las heridas que ha sufrido.

Como indica Brian Concannon, director del Instituto por la Justicia y Democracia en Haití, “esa gente llegó a esos lugares porque ellos o sus padres fueron expulsados intencionadamente de las áreas rurales por políticas de ayuda y de comercio diseñadas específicamente con la intención de crear en las ciudades una fuerza de trabajo cautiva, y por lo tanto fácil de explotar; por definición se trata de gente que no cuenta con los medios para construir casas resistentes a los terremotos”. Entretanto, la infraestructura básica de la ciudad –agua corriente, electricidad, carreteras, etc– permanece deplorablemente inadecuada, a menudo inexistente. La capacidad del gobierno para movilizar cualquier tipo de ayuda contra catástrofes es prácticamente nula.

La comunidad internacional ha gobernado efectivamente Haití desde el golpe de 2004. Los mismos países que ahora alardean con el envío de ayuda de emergencia a Haití han votado sin embargo consistentemente, durante los últimos 5 años, contra cualquier extensión del mandato de la misión de la ONU más allá de sus objetivos estrictamente militares. Propuestas para desviar parte de de estas “inversiones” hacia programas para la reducción de la pobreza o el desarrollo agrario se han bloquedado, en consonancia con las pautas de largo plazo que siguen caracterizando la “ayuda” internacional.

Las mismas tormentas que mataron a tanta gente en 2008 golpearon a Cuba con la misma fuerza, pero aquí dejaron solamente 4 muertos. Cuba ha eludido los peores efectos de las “reforma” neoliberales y su gobierno conserva la capacidad de defender a su pueblo contra los desastres naturales. Si queremos seriamente ayudar a Haití a salir de su última crisis, deberíamos tomar en consideración esos resultados. Juntamente con el envío de ayuda de emergencia, deberíamos preguntarnos qué podemos hacer para favorecer el fortalecimiento de la autodeterminación del pueblo de Haití y sus instituciones públicas. Si queremos en serio ayudar, tenemos que dejar de intentar controlar el gobierno haitiano, pacificar a sus ciudadanos, y explotar su economía. Y luego tendremos que empezar a pagar al menos una parte del destrozo que ya hemos causado.

Traducido para Rebelión por José Luis Vivas


Cerca de un millar de heridos atendidos por Médicos Sin Fronteras en las primeras horas tras el terremoto de Haití

Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) ha atendido en las últimas horas a cerca de un millar de personas heridas en el terremoto de Puerto Príncipe. El seísmo registrado ayer en la periferia de la capital haitiana, de magnitud 7.0 en la escala de Richter, destruyó parcialmente los hospitales y clínicas en que trabajaba MSF, por lo que los equipos han tenido que instalarse en tiendas de campaña para poder prestar asistencia médica.

El centro de salud de Martissant, situado en el depauperado barrio del mismo nombre, tuvo que ser evacuado después de que el terremoto le causara graves daños estructurales. Los pacientes están siendo atendidos ahora el exterior, y a ellos se han sumado los numerosos heridos que han ido llegando desde el centro de la capital en las últimas horas.
Hasta ahora, en Martissant han sido atendidas entre 300 y 350 personas, que presentaban en su mayoría heridas traumáticas y fracturas. Cerca de medio centenar sufría quemaduras, algunas de ellas de gravedad, causadas casi todas por explosiones de gas registradas en edificios derruidos.

En el centro de rehabilitación de Pacot (otra de las estructuras en las que trabaja MSF regularmente), han sido atendidas hasta ahora entre 300 y 400 personas, y otras 200 más en una de las oficinas administrativas de MSF, en Petionville, donde los equipos se han instalado en tiendas en la calle. Muchos más están recibiendo atención en la maternidad Solidarité, una de las estructuras que más daños ha sufrido y que tuvo que ser evacuada tras el seísmo.
Con tantas estructuras sanitarias destruidas o cerca del colapso, la atención médica falta precisamente cuando más necesaria es. “La situación es caótica”, apunta Stefano Zannini, uno de los trabajadores de MSF que pasó las horas siguientes al terremoto realizando evaluaciones de las infraestructuras de salud en la ciudad. Sólo su equipo visitó cinco centros médicos, incluyendo un gran hospital, comprobando que casi ninguno funcionaba.

“Muchos estaban dañados, y además pudimos ver allí una cifra estremecedora de muertos –señaló–. Algunas áreas de la ciudad están sin luz y la gente se ha concentrado en las calles, alrededor de hogueras, buscando consuelo unos en otros. Al llegar nosotros, nos pidieron ayuda, en especial para los heridos. Hemos visto mucha solidaridad en las calles”.

Hans van Dillen, otro de los coordinadores de MSF, apuntó que Puerto Príncipe es, en estos momentos, incapaz de hacer frente a un desastre de esta magnitud. “Cientos de miles de personas han perdido sus casas y están durmiendo en la calle. Hemos visto fracturas abiertas, graves heridas craneales, y lo peor de todo que en este momento no podemos proporcionar a la gente los servicios quirúrgicos adecuados”.

MSF, que cuenta con más de 800 trabajadores haitianos e internacionales en sus proyectos regulares en el país, está preparando el envío de equipos de refuerzo. Cerca de 70 trabajadores más llegarán en las próximas horas, entre ellos varios nefrólogos para atender a los pacientes con síndrome de aplastamiento. Además, MSF está enviando un hospital de campaña con capacidad para 100 pacientes, con dos quirófanos y siete tiendas de hospitalización. Unas 80 toneladas de material estarán dispuestas para ser enviadas en las próximas horas.

No obstante, la llegada de equipos y materiales podría producirse no directamente a Haití sino vía la vecina República Dominicana, y por tanto retrasarse, ya que los sistemas de transporte han resultado muy dañados. Debido también a los problemas en las comunicaciones, no todo el personal de MSF ha podido ser localizado. Los dos trabajadores españoles que formaban parte de los equipos regulares en Haití se encuentran localizados y están sanos y salvos.

MSF creates tent medical facilities in post-quake Haiti

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who are sleeping in the streets because they are homeless,” MSF coordinator, Hans van Dillen, said. “We see open fractures, head injuries. The problem is that we can not forward people to proper surgery at this stage.”

First reports are now emerging from MSF’s teams who were already working on medical projects Haiti when an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale struck the country early January 12. MSF staff immediately started treating hundreds of people injured and have been setting up clinics in tents to replace their own damaged medical facilities.

The Martissant health centre in a poor area of Port au Prince had to be evacuated after the earthquake because it was damaged and unstable. The patients are now in tents in the grounds and the medical staff have been dealing with a flow of casualties from the town. They have already treated between 300 and 350 people, mainly for trauma injuries and  fractures. Amongst them are 50 people suffering from burns, some of them severe, frequently caused by domestic gas containers exploding in collapsing buidings.

At the Pachot rehabilitation centre another 300 to 400 people have been treated.  In one of MSF’s adminstrative offices in Petionville, another part  of Port au Prince, a tent clinic there has had at least 200 injured people. More are getting assistance at what was the Solidarite maternity hospital, which was seriously damaged.

One of MSF’s senior staff, Stefano Zannini, was out for most of the night, trying to assess the needs in the city and looking at the state of the medical facilities.

“The situation is chaotic,” he said. “I visited five medical centres, including a major hospital, and most of them were not functioning. Many are damaged and I saw a distressing number of dead bodies.

“Some parts of the city are without electricity and people have gathered outside, lighting fires in the street and trying to help and comfort each other. When they saw that I was from MSF, they were asking for help, particularly to treat their wounded. There was strong solidarity among people in the streets.”

Another MSF coordinator there, Hans van Dillen, confirmed that Port au Prince  was quite unable to cope with the scale of the disaster.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who are sleeping in the streets because they are homeless,” he said. “We see open fractures, head injuries. The problem is that we can not forward people to proper surgery at this stage.”

So many of the city’s medical facilities have also been damaged that the healthcare is severely disruption at precisely the moment when medical needs are high.

But MSF is also working to get more staff into the country. Around 70 more are expected to arrive in the coming days. MSF is sending out a 100-bed hospital, with an inflatable surgical unit, consisting in two operating theaters and seven hospitalization tents.

Nephrologists to deal with the affects of crush injuries will also be part of the team.

However, transport links are difficult and it is not yet clear whether supplies and medical staff will have to go in through neighbouring Domican Republic.  MSF is concerned about the safety of some of its own staff. There are 800 of them and not all have yet been accounted for because of the poor communications and general disruption.


September 2020

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