Haiti after the aftershock: Report from Dave Doherty, a former Peace Corps Volunteer who lives and works in Haiti.

Good evening/morning to everyone.

As I was Photoshopping pictures for this transmission, we were hit with another aftershock. Quite an abnormal feeling.

It’s 10:41PM in Haiti. It has been a very long first day back in the country. I am very tired and have a busy few weeks ahead but I wanted to bang out a few words to everyone who had expressed their condolences. The attached photos say far more than anything I could write. I would ask everyone to remember that behind every pile of rubble is a tale of misery. I have been lucky because I only lost one person who was like a family member to me. However those close to me lost many, many family members. One good friend was able to call me today to tell me that she lost everyone in Port-au-Prince and everyone in her birth town of Jacmel which was also hit very hard. She told me that she was so happy to know that I was okay because she didn’t want to be alone.


Arrived via bus from the DR late last night. Had to bring some people to the US and UN compounds hence got a firsthand look at the chaos. They are slowly getting things organized but it was a painful experience.

My house is intact, thankfully. We even had electricity when I arrived. Still no water but we are “borrowing” it from the complex pool for bathing and toilet flushing.

Destruction is widespread even complete in some areas. However, you can travel 200 meters and find a neighborhood that has very little damage. I would love to have an intimate knowledge of the geology under each. It would certainly help with home selection.

People are sleeping in any open place they can find. Aftershocks raise the level of anxiety and people can’t sleep unless the stars are overhead and there is nothing solid within 50 feet. A large number or people have suffered complete mental breakdowns. The more mild cases of post-traumatic shock are being treated with medication. The more serious are generally left to wither away because there is no mental health treatment available for them.

Visited five hospitals today to conduct assessments and make deliveries of needed supplies. Medical teams from all over the world have set up camp at every functioning site. When you first enter, it is difficult to know if you are at a health center or a Lake George campground.

As would be expected, every place is dealing with crush injuries, fractures and open wounds from rebar or compound fractures. Sadly basic supplies are in short supply: suture kits, plaster of paris, X-ray film. I visited Medicins san Frontieres field hospital (all of their facilities were destroyed in the quake). This one was run by a team from the Netherlands. Other than for their chain-smoking, all of my previous good impressions were reinforced.

A good friend is running a refugee camp at the one country club in Haiti. It started with 1200 local people who arrived right after the quake. My friend invited the US military to set up camp there especially since the 18th green was ready-made for a helicopter. As soon as they arrived, the numbers of people seeking help rose exponentially. Currently, their census is 53,000.

The thing that is shocking to the likes of Anderson Cooper but what those of us in the country would expect is that the people of Port-au-Prince are quickly getting back to a normal routine. Stree merchants are coming in from the provinces to sell fruits and vegetables. The large Epidor bakery in Delmas 82 is pumping out break every morning though they have closed the front part of their building that housed the restaurant. They are now selling to young people who run around the street hawking bread by the loaf. This is the single attribute of Haitians that has always insured their survival. the ability to adapt, survive and move on no matter what difficulty confronts them.

I keep running into people I know. The reaction is always the same; it is like you found a long lost friend who you thought was lost. Even when you had knowledge that the person was alive, it doesn’t sink in until you actually see them. After the hug, everyone (including me) has the same reaction. “Now don’t start crying …”

We are all working very hard to keep our emotions in check and focus on the job at hand. There will be time for sadness later.

Wish I had time to write more but I am completely beat.
Think of Haiti.

Dave

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