In Haiti, Fate Coincides Arrival of Atlanta Nonprofit’s Medical Shipment with Fatal Wreck

Shortly before midnight in Haiti on Monday, a truck’s brakes failed and it crashed into a small bus, then careened onto the sidewalk of one of Port-au-Prince’s busiest streets. An estimated 29 people were killed and 67 were injured. Fate coincided a same-day arrival of an ocean container of medical supplies and equipment, which will enable many to receive lifesaving treatment.

The oft-undersupplied Port-au-Prince’s Hopital General, where many of the survivors were taken, is able to provide treatment thanks to the Atlanta-based nonprofit MedShare.

“I thank you for the first container which arrived at a perfect time. The First Lady has ordered retrieval of the container immediately. There was a terrible accident in Port-au-Prince on Monday evening … The Hopital General in the city needs a lot of supplies,” says Mona Adam, Nurse, Special Envoy of the First Lady of Haiti, Sophie Martelly.

The ocean container was sent from MedShare, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that recovers and redistributes medical supplies and equipment. The container was sponsored by a metro Atlanta not-for-profit hospital. The container left Atlanta on December 1, 2011 and arrived in Haiti on January 16, 2012.

“The 1,000+ boxes of supplies on this shipment will make a difference to Haitians in their time of emergency,” says Meridith Rentz, CEO of MedShare. “Both before and after the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has held a special place in the heart of our organization, and we are committed to the ongoing strengthening of their healthcare system.”

In the organization’s 14 years, MedShare has shipped a total of 72 ocean containers containing over $8.8 million worth of medical supplies and equipment to Haiti. The most recent container left on January 11, 2012.


Haitian Strength of Spirit

I was jolted out of bed early this morning by the sound of a loud military cargo plane, followed by the sound of singing voices.  I slept outside last night with the entire Haitian family, along with the seven earthquake victims they are Children with no home sing and pray every morning to cope.housing.  They are still too scared to sleep indoors, so we sleep outside under the stars.

As we are all rising from our beds, Mona, the mother of the house, and Pastor Steve lead me to the house behind us, where there are about 10 children and adults some with their hands raised singing, others on their knees crying out in prayer.  These people lost everything in the quake, including family members.  The house they are staying in was up for rent before the quake, so now they are staying in it, but of course, sleeping outside.  Mona said they do this every morning: Wake up, cry, sing and pray.

I visited two of our recipient hospitals today: Chauntrals in Cite Soliel and Port-au-Prince General Hospital, which is the largest hospital right in the middle of downtown Port-au-Prince.  The medical need is still catastrophic.  The line for the hospital triage was wrapped all the way around the corner of the street.  I spoke to a representative from the Clinton Foundation who said the needs are really shifting to more specialized medical items, such as equipment like autoclaves, X-ray and anesthesia machines.  Port-au-Prince General is an interesting scene as there are several aid organizations with medical tents set up throughout the grounds.  It’s almost as if there are several small tent hospitals somehow working together.

The scene in downtown Port-au-Prince is hard to put into words.  Again, the destruction need is unbelievably substantial, but the Haitian people live on.  There is a lot of frustration among the people believing that the U.N. and other large organizations are hoarding the aid resources.  We drove through two street protests with over 500 people chanting and marching with signs saying things like, “TENTS NO GUNS” and “TENTS NOW POLITICS LATER”.  They wore bright yellow shirts that said “HELP HAITI!” on them.

The lack of tents is going to become a major health hazard when rainy season hits.I can’t stress enough the strength and determination the people have to survive this disaster.  The Haitian family that’s hosting me has a church that serves over 6,000 people in the community.  Since the earthquake, they’ve been having nightly outdoor services where thousands of Haitians gather to sing, worship and pray.  Tonight, there was one song where they belted the words at the top of their lungs and danced so hard that dust clouds were flying in the air.  I asked what the English version was of what they were singing, and it was: “We’ve been through so much, but we’re still here!”