Contributed By Stephen Pok
CityCare’s fifth medical aid team to go into Haiti brought with them a new phase of help for the earthquake-stricken land. Team 5 left for Haiti right after the third day of the Lunar New Year celebrations, on Feb. 17.
Why the hurry? Late February is the rainy season in Haiti—thunderstorms can happen for week-long periods. After the Jan. 12 earthquake and the destruction of most homes, the onslaught of continual rain would make matters much worse than they already are, heightening the chances of disease and illness, and contaminating what little available drinking water there is.
The earlier teams to Carrefour had dealt mostly with medical emergencies. As these came under control, the priority of the new team shifted towards helping the Haitians to deal with harsh living conditions. Urgent needs included water systems to enable them to have drinking and bathing water, tents for shelter, and hand-wound lamps to provide light. These were the items Team 5 brought with them to Haiti.
“Team 5’s objective and intention was to provide water for basic sustenance, and shelter to the victims who had lost their homes during the earthquake,” explained Kenneth Sim, the City- Care personnel in charge of the Haiti relief efforts.
While previous teams comprised mostly medical personnel like doctors and nurses, this team included an engineer who was tasked with setting up the water purification system for the town. The system is made by Singapore company Hyflux. Team 5 also brought up more than 1,000 units of a filtration system that will clean up any kind of water, filter out dirt, and purify the filtered water to a level that is perfectly safe for drinking. The team also brought 111 wind-up dynamo lamps.
Shelter remains the most urgent need. “With the rainy season approaching, there is a need to house them within a safe shelter. We shipped over 551 tents for the community.”
Having previously sourced for tents after the Sichuan earthquake in 2007, Sim remembered that the China-made tents CityCare had procured before were less hardy than they ought to have been. The team hunted for a Singapore supplier and eventually found tents that were sturdier and met their needs.
“The Haitians have progressed beyond the earthquake, and right now their urgent need is for proper shelter that keeps them and their families safe.” At press time, the tents had just arrived by freight to Carrefour. “We expect many families to be able to move into a more conducive and safe lodging very soon,” said Sim.
While these new needs were being met, the medical professionals on Team 5 were also hard at work seeing patients.
“Our primary role is still to provide medical assistance to the community,” said Sim. “We’ve had former patients come back to have their dressing cleaned and changed. The conditions of those who come to us are not as severe as a month ago, because many have recovered after receiving their treatment from us over the last few weeks.”
“The new problems we have really seen are the need for proper housing and clean water for the community. We are working with a very reputable and reliable partner in Haiti. Every donation, medical, food or shelter, has been properly accounted for thus far. In fact, we have plans to set up an orphanage and we are discussing that with our partners here.”
While the tents are a triumph for City- Care and Carrefour, they are but a temporary solution. “We have to look into a more permanent place for these people. Thus plans are in the pipeline to build pre-fabricated housing which are easy and fast to erect, and can house whole families. We are also looking at rebuilding schools as many were destroyed in the earthquake.”
|CN PHOTOS: Remond Delon Poh|
Sim says that the Haitians in Carrefour have been effusive in showing their gratitude for Singapore’s help. “I believe the presence of the Singapore team has been a blessing and a source of hope to the community in Haiti. Many people there are now able to resume their normal lives and start working again. With the help rendered to them, they now express a positive hope and change for a ‘new Haiti.’”
One Haitian victim told Sim, “We are very blessed to have the Singaporean team to be here with us; we are able to have a proper home for our children.”
After Team 5, CityCare will send one final team to Haiti for this phase. For Sim and the volunteers who have gone into Haiti from the start, “this trip has shown us how humanity, courage and resilience can help one to come back from setbacks and difficult times. Our biggest wish for Haiti is that the country can rebuild itself quickly, and the lives of those affected by the disaster can resume soon.”
For more news on further aid efforts in Haiti, e-mail email@example.com