ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
More than a week after a deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, thousands are in urgent need of medical and humanitarian aid. Today, I spoke with Rawan Hamadeh. She is part of the emergency response team in Haiti for the organization Project HOPE. She's in the southwestern city of Les Cayes, where relief workers are worried about potential outbreaks of cholera, malaria and a spike in COVID-19. There are damaged buildings, little access to clean water and few medical professionals to meet the needs.
RAWAN HAMADEH: Unfortunately, we have shortages in medicine, in medical supplies, in human resources and in doctors and nurses. We have more than 60 patients in the waiting room. And we only have one doctor and two nurses. The influx of patients is increasing by the day. In addition to that, the buildings of the clinics and the hospitals are extremely damaged. And it's unsafe to keep patients inside.
For example, in Ofatma Hospital in Les Cayes and in Les Cayes General Hospital, patients with their beds are outside the building. They're either in the backyard or in the courtyard, or they're outside because they can't keep patients inside the buildings. It's unsafe.
SHAPIRO: And so I'm imagining there's heat; there's mosquitoes; there's weather. I mean...
HAMADEH: Weather, heat, mosquitoes, the congestion of patients near each other with, additionally, the COVID-19 situation in the country. So actually, the health care system has a big hit due to COVID and the earthquake. And they're trying to survive. And they would need, like, maximum support possible.
SHAPIRO: Are you standing outside of the hospital center there? We're hearing some traffic behind you. Can you describe the scene?
HAMADEH: So as I mentioned before, we have a waiting room of the health clinic. First of all, the center itself is extremely damaged. So there is no one in here, in the center. Patients are actually waiting in the salon of one of the nurses' house. So the house is across from the center. So she opened her house to receive patients there, to do the triage there. And then she is opening also one of her rooms for the doctor to stay in and to see patients - and patients, like children, pregnant women, geriatrics and even limb fractures and limb injuries - they are here as well - to see, like, one doctor.
SHAPIRO: This nurse sounds like a saint. You're saying she turned the living room...
SHAPIRO: ...Of her own personal home into the waiting room for the health center?
HAMADEH: Yes. Yes - because it's completely damaged. They can't risk to take patients inside.
SHAPIRO: Last week, we spoke with Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond. And he talked about some of the disorganization that he saw in the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. This is part of what he said.
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BOCCHIT EDMOND: Everybody came out at the same time. We are flooded with NGOs. At the end of the day, we couldn't organize anything. So now what we wish to see - we wish to have a more coordinated effort.
SHAPIRO: So he says in 2010, Haiti was flooded with NGOs, couldn't organize anything. Now they're trying to be more coordinated. Does that describe what you are seeing now, or does the response still look disorganized to you?
HAMADEH: We are coordinating with all of the organizations who are responding in the area so we can avoid duplication and so we can deliver the resources accordingly. We are also always coordinating with the key people in the villages, like, mayors - so in direct coordination within this (unintelligible).
SHAPIRO: So it sounds like you're saying things really have changed since the 2010 earthquake.
HAMADEH: Yes. Hopefully, we can say that this response is a bit well-coordinated, especially that the organizations have now experience in Haiti and the Ministry of Health have stepped up and supported in the coordination.
SHAPIRO: Rawan Hamadeh is part of the emergency response team in Haiti for the organization Project HOPE.
Thank you for speaking with us.
HAMADEH: Thank you so much for the opportunity.
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