Haiti Relief: Caravans of Injured Are Leaving Capital

Injured from Haiti earthquake are leaving in trucks, buses to rural hospitals.

ByLAUREN COX<br>ABC News Medical Unit
January 14, 2010, 6:44 PM

Jan. 15, 2010&#151; -- Caravans of the injured traveled the bumpy roads out of Port-au-Prince Thursday looking for hospitals to help treat the victims of Tuesday's earthquake.

Most hospitals in the city were destroyed, or so badly damaged they were evacuated.

"For the last 36 hours we have received over 100 patients from the Port-au-Prince area," said Dr. Ian Rawson, of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti, about 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince. "We have about 10 doctors and two surgeons."

The injured often come riding in the back of pick-up trucks, Rawson says. Most are suffering broken bones and "crushing wounds" and some people arrive with unmarked IVs from a clinic in the city. Rawson said families have been waiting patiently outside the hospital for the doctors who call them in using a radio system.

"One by one, when we can get them through the operating room, and starting now we're just beginning to be able to discharge people," said Rawson.

Albert Schweitzer is currently running on its own power generator, and doctors have to ration electricity use in the building to operating rooms and for intermittent Internet use. Rawson said the hospital typically keeps three to six months of supplies on hand, but the staff went through an entire month's supply Wednesday.

But what the hospital needs most at the moment are surgeons.

"We've had a discussion with Doctors Without Borders. They have surgeons and no hospital, and we need surgeons," said Rawson.

Phones and electricity were still down in much of the country Thursday afternoon, making communication between doctors already stationed in Haiti difficult.

"We are now dealing with two countries; one is Port-au-Prince and the rest is Haiti. And all of us outside of Port-au-Prince don't know what is happening," said Rawson.

"What's amazing to us is the resilience of the people of Haiti -- they are the ones who give us the strength to keep going," he said.

Relief in the Capital Port-au-Prince

Licia Betor, who runs a rescue center for malnourished children in a village called Cazale, outside of Port-au-Prince, said many are sleeping outside.

"We have a rescue center that houses 70 sick and malnourished children... the center has some cracks inside on the walls, so we are just staying outdoors for now," Betor wrote in an e-mail to ABCNews.com.

The rescue center is blogging about the survivors they treat at www.haitirescuecenter.wordpress.com. Betor says many are still searching for survivors and the price of gas is an impediment.

"A gallon of gasoline is $12, U.S. at the pumps," she wrote.

Joan VanWassenhove, of the nonprofit Partners in Health, said doctors from her organization began treating the injured moments after the quake.

"Dr. Louise Ivers, director of clinical care, was there at the time… once the quake happened, she said she went into response mode and she's got the field hospital running by the general hospital," said VanWassenhove. The general hospital in Port-au-Prince was flattened by the quake.

But the organization is still racing to find supplies while 30 doctors prepare to fly to Haiti from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., today.

"We've got 10 (permanent) sites in Haiti, most are in the central plateau region…they're sending pain medications, narcotics, antibiotics, gloves, alcohol, IVs, sheets, and tetanus vaccines to get down to the general hospital," said VanWassenhove.

Partners in Health is also diverting the less-critically injured to the central plateau region. VanWassenhove said the mayor of the town Hinche, already organized a caravan of three busses to transport people out of the capital.

"But some of the more pressing needs of people on the ground is anything solar -- flashlights, radios -- and tents, water, or water purification tools," she said.

Experts in disaster medicine estimate people can survive buried in rubble for a few days at most.

A February 2006 article in the journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine estimates rescue workers can find "numerous survivors beyond 48 hours of entrapment under rubble, with a few successfully enduring entrapment of 13–14 days."

As Haitians race against the clock to find people in the rubble, organizations like Partners in Health are bracing themselves for long-term health problems after the disaster -- including malnutrition.

Hope Within Haiti

The nonprofit Meds and Food for Kids -- an organization that manufactures food for malnourished children -- was delighted to find its manufacturing plant, staff and warehouse in Haiti had withstood the earthquake.

Meds and Food for Kids has distributed "Medika Mamba" to children suffering from malnutrition in Haiti for several years.

"It's peanut butter, it's milk powder, sugar, vegetable oil, vitamins and minerals mixed all together to create a super food," said Tom Stehl, operations coordinator of Meds and Food for Kids.

Stehl said on a "good day," one out of every four children in Haiti, about 250,000 children, suffer from malnutrition. Stehl expects those numbers to grow as families are pushed to the brink of survival after the earthquake.

But Stehl said the manufacturing plant in Cap Hatien in the north of Haiti survived the quake intact, as did the distributing warehouse in Port-au-Prince.

"In Port-au-Prince, we have five metric tons of this stuff. This is energy dense. This is super food. This is not rice, this is not grain," said Stehl.

Six pounds of Medika Mamba will feed one child for two weeks, according to Stehl. From that calculation, the current warehouse stock in Port-au-Prince will feed just under 2,000 malnourished children for two weeks.

"We're ramping up production. We're making more and more of this stuff and we're making it available to those who need it," Stehl said.

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