While continuing to perform operations at its fixed sites, MSF has started sending mobile teams into communities in and around the capital to search for people with conditions that could deteriorate rapidly if they go untreated.
Haiti 2010 © Julie Remy
In the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, Port-au-Prince’s working hospitals were flooded with people with serious injuries that required immediate emergency care. Those who either couldn’t reach a medical facility or who were contending with more routine illnesses often went without treatment. In recent days, however, while continuing to perform operations at its fixed sites, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started sending mobile teams into communities in and around the capital to search for people with conditions that could deteriorate rapidly if they go untreated.
The day they started working in Port-au-Prince, MSF mobile teams found approximately 200 people who needed help cleaning or stitching up wounds, changing dressings, or finding more specialized care. In the nearby coastal towns of Leogâne and Grand-Goâve, the teams found dozens of injured people and referred them to hospitals where they could get the attention they needed. MSF is now expanding these programs to reach into other areas as well.
There is still a profound need for major medical interventions, however. In one of the poorest sections of Port-au-Prince, the Cite Soleil slum, MSF has been performing up to 30 surgical operations per day. Teams there are seeing more people with gunshot or machete wounds, but Marie-Christine Ferir, one of MSF's emergency coordinators, notes that despite a perceptible increase in tension, the numbers remain relatively low—three per day, on average. "Well before this earthquake this was a very deprived area, with many social problems and a history of violence,” she says. “Clearly, tensions will be further amplified by the stresses from this quake."
Other MSF teams continue to look for suitable facilities in which to treat and house their patients. The powerful tremor that hit Haiti on Wednesday morning—along with two smaller ones Thursday—complicated what was already a pressing need. Two MSF hospitals in Port-au-Prince and one in Leogâne had to be evacuated because they were no longer safe. Patients had to be put in tents; roughly 100 of them will move into the inflatable hospital MSF is currently in the process of building.
MSF has significantly augmented its staff on the ground with dozens of new volunteers, but locating all of its Haitian staff members was a profound challenge. Hundreds of Haitians were working with MSF when the quake struck. Despite everything that has happened to their homeland and their communities, most are back on the job. With great appreciation, MSF wishes to recognize their resolve and their dedication. Sadly, however, MSF members around the world have come to realize that four of our Haitian colleagues were killed, as were four former colleagues. As of this writing, six Haitian staff members remain unaccounted for.