Medical Treatment, Shelter Top Needs In Haiti
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
ARI SHAPIRO, Host:
It has now been two weeks since Haiti's earthquake and the international approach to the country is evolving.
INSKEEP: We have two reports this morning. In a moment, we'll hear from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who sat down with Michele Kelemen to talk about raising money to rebuild the country.
SHAPIRO: NPR's John Burnett spent the day with U.S. relief officials and sent this report.
JOHN BURNETT: Killick Point is a Haitian Coast Guard station about six miles off the coast from Port-au-Prince, shaded by mango and palm trees. Today, it's the site a mobile clinic set up by the U.S. Army's joint taskforce, Bravo, out of Honduras. Colonel Marie Dominguez is the doctor in charge here, where more than a thousand patients have been treated since the earthquake. She stands over a man lying on his stomach on a hospital bed with a hole in his back.
MARIE DOMINGUEZ: This is a gentleman who had a small wound on the day of the earthquake and he came in and he's got a big abscess on his back, which needs to be cleaned out, packed with dressing, changed everyday.
BURNETT: Dominguez says they don't see as many patients coming in with life and death wounds like before. It's been long enough that people have either gotten better from say, a crushed chest wound, or they've died.
DOMINGUEZ: And now, what we are really starting to see is a lot of infections coming in as well, you know, where people had a small wound or prick and then it's gotten infected, pussing(ph) out on them.
BURNETT: The U.S. military medical mission is overwhelmed. The Navy hospital ship, the USS Comfort, is filled with patients, as are the hospitals on-board an aircraft carrier and a helicopter carrier floating in the water off the Haitian coast. The 22 hospitals in Port-au-Prince are overflowing with earthquake victims. So, the plan is for the U.S. military to erect a convalescent care tent city as soon as this week, to get post-op patients off the ships and make room for more critical care cases.
RICH ELLISON: Some people are ready to go home. And, of course, the problem is they don't have a home to go to.
BURNETT: Dr. Rich Ellison, the chief surgeon for the U.S. military's joint taskforce Haiti says they are already preparing a piece of land, 10 miles north of the capital. He says the field hospital will start with 250 beds.
ELLISON: It's going to be like "M*A*S*H." It's going to be tents, cots, you know, food, water, things that they need, that we want them to be comfortable, but we don't want them to go home yet.
BURNETT: Looming over the humanitarian crisis is the arrival of the Caribbean rainy season in April. Haitians who lost their homes are living completely exposed to the elements, perhaps under a thin cotton sheet to protect them from the sun. USAID recently sent in some 10,000 rolls of plastic sheeting for makeshift shelters, says former ambassador Lewis Lucke. He's the U.S. government's coordinator for relief and recovery in Haiti.
LEWIS LUCKE: We are scrambling as hard as we can. We have received tremendous number of rolls of plastic sheeting, we are cutting it up and we are distributing it, and we are getting it out as quickly as we can with the use of Haitian labor.
BURNETT: And there's another deadline facing the aid providers: the expectation of a population that needs everything. Lieutenant General Ken Keen is the commander of JTF, Haiti.
KEN KEEN: Clearly, if we are unable to respond - and I say we, the international community, the United Nations, to meet the needs of the people - then there would be growing unrest.
BURNETT: Unidentified Man #2: When will you start to distribute food, and water, and tents?
BURNETT: A man demands, when will you start to distribute food, water and tents. The Marines guarding the landing zone are unfazed by the demanding crowd. Everything is relative, they've all done two tours in Iraq or Afghanistan where snipers and roadside bombs are a daily threat. Lance Corporal William Berdahoe(ph), from Passaic, New Jersey, wearing a cloth cap and light body armor, is asked about his surprise deployment to Haiti.
WILLIAM BERDAHOE: Beautiful. You don't gotta worry about getting shot or nothing. You know you're going home for a fact. You know, I worry about home. I will probably make it home this time. It's nice coming here and helping out the people.
BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.