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HAITI MEDICAl Emergency, Jamaican doctors on duty

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Laura Redpath, Gleaner Writer

Survivors of Tuesday’s earthquake sit on a street of Port-au-Prince last Friday.


A team of Jamaican doctors, along with support staff from the Ministry of Health, landed in Haiti yesterday morning to join medical personnel from around the world in the global rescue mission in the earthquake-wrecked Caribbean country.

At the Jamaica Defence Force base at the Port-au-Prince airport, the team awaited the arrival of supplies from Jamaica and a convoy to take them to the hospital facility to which they were assigned. Two such facilities were set up in the crushed city, Dr Shane Alexis said.

On the ground, the team discussed steps that had to be taken to contain possible disease outbreaks under the very grim circumstances.

Just as the medics were to be deployed, the already battered nation took two aftershocks in quick succession, giving the team a taste of what was to come. With regularity, aftershocks rock the rubble that once was homes, commercial enterprises and offices. Over 30 such episodes have occurred since Tuesday's massive 7.0 earthquake, killing over 200,000 persons officials say.

great deal of activity

The Jamaican soldiers, camped next to the German contingent at the airport, up to yesterday were still in the process of making the area habitable as they dug in for what appears to be a long haul. Engineers most of them, the soldiers have been playing their part in the rescue effort even while setting up their base. "Bodies are rotting, eyes are falling out, skins are peeling, and yes, there are children out there," Lieutenant Kanien Smith said, explaining what they saw on the streets of Port-au-Prince. He said further that there had been a great deal of activity over the past days to clear the city centre, but things were moving slowly along the outskirts.

Dr Derrick McDowell was taken aback by the scenes on the city's streets as the medics were deployed, apparently without the arrival of their supplies. "This is frightening!" he explained. Another doctor contended that the team would be limited in its functions if it did not have the tools with which to work. Nonetheless, they were ready for what was ahead."For the next couple of days, I will be focusing on patients with head and neck trauma," said Dr Khai Josina Duncan.

Help for Haiti

Pushed to the far edge of desperation, earthquake-ravaged Haitians dump decaying bodies into mass graves and beg for water and food amid warnings that time is running out to avoid chaos and to rescue anyone still alive in the wreckage. Despite the enormity of the job, relief workers and officials were making progress: The US military took control of the airport; there was limited looting or violence; and medical teams were beginning to arrive and assemble makeshift hospitals.

Over 200,000 feared dead.

Some two million children are believed to be affected by the earthquake.

Up to 10 trucks carrying a "huge amount" of aid crossed into quake-struck Haiti from the Dominican Republic on Saturday.

About 600,000 humanitarian daily rations were expected to be at Haiti's airport by Saturday evening. The World Food Program plans to distribute the rations.

The United Nations said about a third of the buildings in Haiti's capital have been damaged or destroyed and appealed for more than US$560 million to help three million people badly affected by the earthquake.

The Obama administration said it will allow Haitians who are in the United States illegally to remain temporarily because of this week's catastrophic earthquake.

Help our Haitian neighbours

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