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Haiti quake survivors need food, medicine

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

3:45 PM EST Jan. 28, 2010

Lee Warren, Virginia director of Stop Hunger Now, gives a high-protein meal to a young mother suffering from malnutrition. UMNS photos courtesy of Stop Hunger Now.


Lee Warren and other members of a United Methodist volunteer medical team found little destruction when they arrived in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, the Saturday after the earthquake.

What they did find, however, were plenty of survivors from Port-au-Prince and elsewhere seeking medical care.

Many of the earthquake survivors, brought in by family members to the clinic where the volunteers worked, had injured limbs with open, infected wounds.

“One of the children we saw was one of only five out of a school of 500 who had survived (the earthquake),” she said. “His brother brought him over from Port-au-Prince on a scooter.”

Warren, of South Hill, Va., had been to Haiti before, most recently in November. She is the Virginia director for Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh, N.C.-based nonprofit organization that does extensive work there and already has coordinated emergency food shipments for earthquake survivors.

Given the scope of destruction, the loss of infrastructure and the shortages of food, water and shelter, only a few volunteers are able to come into Haiti now.

Once this volunteer team—doctors, nurses and a few people like Warren who performed basic triage and assisted in other ways—got clearance for air space on its previously scheduled trip, the team sprang into action.

No food at hospital

Arriving in Cap-Haitien from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the volunteers learned that trauma patients and staff at the hospital there had no food. “We got about 75 sandwiches, picked up drinks, and a few of us headed right to the hospital to check out the situation and hand out what we could,” Warren said.

The team then got to work at the Tovar medical clinic in the greater Grison-Garde area, part of The Haiti Mission, a United Methodist-supported project. “Primarily, we were treating the community just for their basic health needs,” she explained.

This infant received antibiotics
at the Tovar Clinic.

The Haiti Mission began as a construction project in northern Haiti in 1982, and now includes the Tovar and Latannerie medical clinics and the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School in Grison-Garde.

Dr. Raymond Ford, the mission’s medical director, organized Warren’s volunteer-in-mission team. Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C., is the mission’s founding partner. Two Virginia United Methodist churches, Fredericksburg and Williamsburg, also provide funds.

For Warren and the team, the earthquake-related injuries led to other concerns. She assisted a teenage girl, age 16 or 17, who brought in a 5-month-old boy with a staph infection on his face. The baby’s mother, a relative of the girl, had been killed in the earthquake.

The infection was successfully treated with antibiotics, but Warren, a new grandmother herself, was worried about the baby’s long-term health. She asked what the boy was being fed and the girl did not know.

With a baby bottle and formula, she instructed the girl “how to become a mother.” But the experience reflected the strain now placed on Haitian families coping with the aftermath of the earthquake.

“Families are being displaced and relatives are having the added burden of caring for family members on what was already a meager poverty-level income,” she explained.

Evidence of malnutrition

Beyond the earthquake-related wounds, Warren saw evidence of malnutrition in some of the children and adults who came to the clinic. One child could not walk because his legs were too swollen. Another child was so swollen it looked as if she had been struck in the face, she noted.

The swelling around the eye of a
Haitian girl, held by her father, is
a symptom of malnutrition.


So Warren pulled out the 36 dehydrated emergency meals—the type that Stop Hunger Now uses in crisis situations and school feeding programs around the world—that she had been able to bring in a suitcase on their small plane.

She alerted the doctors about the meals she had in her suitcase. “When they saw the amount of protein in these meals, we made the decision the few I had would be distributed to the children who were suffering,” she said.

More emergency meals arrived in Haiti this week or were en route to the island, according to the Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist pastor and Stop Hunger Now’s president and founder.

A full container of 213,000 meals, 124,000 cans of precooked chicken and roast beef, and more than 31,000 bottles of water, was loaded onto military air transport in Miami on Jan. 26. A cruise ship arrived in Cap-Haitien the same day with nearly 40,000 meals and 20 tons of medical aid and canned food. Another ship en route to Haiti this week, coordinated through Stop Hunger Now, carried more than 285,000 meals.

Warren said she regretted not being able to carry in more meals to Cap-Haitien, but added that the pastor of Fredericksburg United Methodist Church is organizing a meal-packaging event in March. “We’re planning a shipment to that clinic and the orphanage in April,” she reported.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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