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Elizabeth Furst Frank is Senior Vice President of Global Programs for AmeriCares and oversees our comprehensive Haiti relief efforts. She is working with our emergency response team on the ground, including Medical Director, Dr. Frank Bia, to assess the current health situation and coordinate AmeriCares long-term commitment to help Haiti recover and rebuild its health care system. Here are her reflections from the field.
This morning, we visited Petionville Club, driving through the tall stone gates and down a long driveway shaded by old trees. Since the earthquake, the club has become Port au Prince’s largest camp for people displaced by the disaster. There are over 80,000 people living on the golf course in the most inhospitable conditions – under a beating sun with little shade and living in small makeshift shelters squeezed against one another along the side of a steep hill.
Though many latrines and showers had recently been constructed, the sanitation was poor and people spoke of the great health risks the rainy season would soon bring. In spite of the desperate conditions, the resilient community was trying to recreate its daily activities – a group of boys kicked a soccer ball, some older men played cards, and many people tried to make a living selling food, water and personal items. One of our partners in Haiti, Save the Children, operates a primary health clinic at the top of the hill which AmeriCares supplies with essential medicines.
The day of our visit, over 50 patients lined up outside the temporary clinic. Many were being diagnosed with diarrhea, respiratory infections and skin diseases. There were also reports of increasing cases of malaria. The situation at Petionville Club seems like it may get worse before it gets better. We will return tomorrow to figure out how AmeriCares can support afield hospital with equipment so it can treat some of the more severe health conditions.