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Haiti reels from latest setback as hurricane relief efforts continue

Haitians are still reeling from last week's devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed over 2,000 people. Survivors are filling hospitals and crowding aid sites awaiting desperately-needed food and supplies. For more on the situation, NewsHour weekend’s Ivette Feliciano spoke with Dr. Jean Pape, Director of Les Centres Gheskio, who has been working on the front lines of public health in Haiti for decades.

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  • Michael Hill:

    For more on Haiti's efforts to assist survivors of the earthquake, NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with dr. Jean pape, director of the GHESKIO center, who has been on the front lines of many of Haiti's calamities.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Dr. Pape, since the 1970s, you have been on the front lines of Haiti's ever-changing public health crises and climate disasters from the early days of the AIDS epidemic to the 2010 earthquake. How do those experiences help you and your team at GHESKIO in a moment like this?

  • Dr. Jean Pape:

    I think it's been very helpful. It's unfortunate for our country, it's another very sad day for Haiti, but for us, it brought a lot of experience because every single time there's been a catastrophe, we have learned from it. We've learned, for instance, that you need to bring surgical services as early as possible. That's essential. You'll have critical bone fractures. You will have head fractures of multiple head trauma. You'll have abdominal trauma. And you need to take care of those very, very, very fast. So the other thing that's essential is the fact that you have a lot of people who have lost their home and they have no place to go. So when you admit them in a hospital, you care for them. Then after that, they cannot go anywhere. They have no home. And what we did at our site where I'm talking from right now in Port-Au-Prince was that we had a structure for recovery. And we help people stay there a little longer than they would normally, but enough so that we could, in the meantime, arrange for them to have a decent place to stay.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Dr. Pape, I know that your team works very closely with the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, which is the largest public health hospital in the region that was most impacted by the earthquake. What are you hearing from your contacts on the ground and what's the situation there right now?

  • Dr. Jean Pape:

    Well, I think that they have done a fantastic job. The first two days were hectic because they were they were having a lot of people coming in and they were short of staff. But since they've had 12 orthopedic surgeons that have been coming and they are helping to treat hospitals in the area, that has helped a lot. Now, the situation, as you know, is the fact that they are having aftershocks. And yesterday there was one that was particularly violent because I felt it in my office in Port au Prince. So when you have that situation, people had to evacuate all the buildings. And because of Tropical Storm Grace, many people could not stay outside in the rain. They had no shelter, so they had to take a chance to get inside a building that could collapse. So those are the dangers.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    This is all happening during a time of political instability as well as the coronavirus pandemic. What are your top concerns in this moment?

  • Dr. Jean Pape:

    The political concern, of course, is important. But fortunately, I would say that I would like to do after the 2010 earthquake or concentrating on helping the victims. So this is good and I hope it continues. In addition, I think that we have a good prime minister who happens to be a neurosurgeon, so he is well aware he's been very active in the 2010 earthquake. So people are going to continue to operate for people, for us for free. So he understands the situation so I think he's leading the country in the right direction. I hope people in the position will join with them so that we have more stability.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    How can people outside of Haiti, particularly in the U.S., help to provide survival support during this time?

  • Dr. Jean Pape:

    They are serious organizations. I think the University of Miami that has been supporters of GHESKIO during the 2010 earthquake is again doing a good job. They have every day 4:00 p.m. through conversation where we talk with everybody and we are able to assemble air support. A lot of companies like UPS are helping food for the poor, etc. So it links everybody together. That's a great way to help. If you go to their website, you can find ways to help institutions that are credible, that are going to help directly the people who are impacted.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Dr. Jean Pape of GHESKIO, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Dr. Jean Pape:

    Thank you, Ivette. Very nice seeing you.

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