Haiti Debriefing: Red Cross June 7, 2010

Haiti Report

Presentation: Hope for Haiti

Location: American Red Cross at 23rd and Chestnut/4th Floor – Board Room

Time: 11:30am to 1:30pm

Presenters: Tom Foley – CEO of American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter

Jamie Maguire – CEO of Philadelphia Insurance Company

Summary: The two presenters, Tom and Jamie, went on a 5 day trip to Haiti. They stayed with Tom Griffin who is the founder of Lamp for Haiti; a health clinic located in Port-au-Prince. During their stay they visited 4 medical facilities, 3 educational facilities, near Cite Soleil. They also visited rural areas. They came back to report on the following:

Post Earthquake Conditions

Buildings and Structures

Living Conditions

Rural Community

Air Quality

Medical Treatment

Pre-existing Conditions




Health and Nutrition



Internal and External Aide

Lamps for Haiti

American Red Cross

Pan American Health Organization

St. Damien’s Children’s Hospital

Local Contractor

Brazilian Peace Keepers

Major Needs

Better Roads



Nutrition/Medical Treatment



Post Earthquake Conditions

Buildings and Structures.

Tom and Jamie saw a lot of collapsed buildings and homes including the presidential palace. Buildings are structurally unsafe and there is a lot of rubble. People are living in encampments. Red Cross building needs to be demolished (5 national societies were in that one building. During the earthquake Matt Mereck, from the Red Cross, hid under his desk as did 3 other people. A wall caved in. When they came out from under their desks, they went into triage mode). Rubble cannot be disposed of properly; just pushed to the side of the road. There is nowhere to put it. They don’t have cranes or back hoes and proper equipment to safely remove it. They are using shovels and man power. Haitians are making their own efforts to remove rubble; rubble removal and clean-up is becoming a major enterprise. However this is very dangerous; a lot of buildings, though they remain standing, are unstable and could collapse at any moment. It is important to note that Haiti does not have building codes and if any exist they are not enforced; this predates the earthquake. There is little structural damage in Cite Soleil compared to other areas where buildings look as though they could collapse any minute as.

Living Conditions.

Starting from the airport terminal and on, are cities of camps; described as a sea of tarps and tents. People are living in tents or under tarps. There is not a lot of available space to accommodate all people. In the middle of a busy road is a small island – even that is occupied by two tents. The people set up wherever they can; wherever they can find space. The tents and tarps are a huge fire hazard – especially when they are so close together – when people cook or light candles etc. It is very hard to maintain dignity in this environment when there is no privacy for going to the bathroom or bathing. There are no toilets, or public restrooms. (Tom tells the story of walking through the camp and walked within inches of an older man washing up, naked except for his underwear). Getting water is an everyday preoccupation. Water for about 25,000 is very limited. It either has to be piped in or brought in on a truck. There is no telling when the water arrives unfortunately – not set schedule, so people line up and wait outside headquarters with buckets.

Rural Community.

About 500 to 600 families try to head back to the rural area to live with relatives or other families. There are families of 14 living together in one house. This is a huge problem because there aren’t enough resources in the rural area. The level of poverty in the rural areas is overwhelming; worse than in the cities. This predates the earthquake. The rural community cannot provide for themselves let alone for others. The driver who drove Tom and Jamie around Port au Prince is responsible for 30 kids. They live in a house made of mud and stick much like an adobe. They have some chickens but certainly not enough to feed all 30 children. No running water and very little vegetation. Young girls can be seen carrying 5 pound jugs of water on their heads back to their homes. This is a daily occurrence. There are efforts being made to bring people back to the cities and camps where they have better access to aide.

Air Quality.

The air quality is poor, especially in the cities; a lot of exhaust – carbon monoxide – and most everything is covered in dust. In addition there is a lot of debris and impurities from the rubble itself and the rubble removal. Haitians involved with rubble removal and clean-up are not wearing protective masks or eyewear. These conditions can lead to respiratory problems. Both Tom and Jamie recall wearing sunglasses all the time to keep the dust out of their eyes, and continually wiping the glasses clean.

Medical Treatment.

Most of the injuries resulting from the earthquake have been treated. Now clinics are mostly treating amputees and people who have experienced neurological damage or nerve damage. Tom tells a story of a father walking his young daughter to Lamp for Haiti. The young girl was badly injured in the earthquake. She suffers from nerve damage and brain damage. She was going back to the clinic for further treatment. All other patients are being treated for health conditions that existed well before the earthquake; such as malnutrition, infectious diseases, parasites etc.

Pre-Existing Conditions


About 90% of the country is deforested. This is in great part due to early colonization of French and Spanish; they cut down a lot of the trees and destroyed what natural resources existed. Also due to poverty; Haitians will cut down just about anything and sell it. Trees are cut to sell as wood for fire. Even sticks from the countryside are sold and used to make mud huts. Little food or water; animals are suffering from thirst and starvation. Tom recalled seeing a frail and thin animal (donkey or horse) lying off to the side of the road; it was twitching. A local woman explained that it was dying.


About 98% of the economy is microenterprise. Many Haitians run small businesses from selling fruits and vegetables to ice. In Cite Soleil, Tom and Jamie met a man that takes old clothes and cuts up the materials to make new clothes; he would double up materials to make stronger, durable garments. He then sells his clothes to someone else who then sells them on the streets. They also met a blacksmith who created his own blacksmithing tools out of a bicycle wheel and bicycle pedal. He would pedal and the wheel would create friction and heat which helped to create tools. He could take bent metal bars from collapsed homes, reshape them, straighten them and sell them. Others might make their living transporting heavy materials in makeshift wheelbarrows; a doctor at the Lamp for Haiti clinic said that one can tell when a person has a job pushing wheelbarrows – the person’s chest and back becomes concave from pushing. Driving ‘Tap Tap’ vehicles are an important commerce. A ‘Tap Tap’ is a truck that serves as public transportation. People only need to tap the truck and the truck will stop to let the people on. In Wharf de Soleil (one of the poorest neighborhoods) people make boats out of trees and then go fishing in shallow waters. They sell any fish they can catch; the fish tend to be very small. A small village called Croix des Bouquets is home to about 40 artisans. They work together to create art; specifically tin art from used oil barrels. Each person in the village has a task; one person will cut the tin, another will flatten and shape it, and another may paint it. Gambling is another way to earn money. Lottery tickets are sold (even NY lottery tickets can be found) – though it’s possible numbers are not called. Some people make roulette wheels and make money off of bets.


The sewage system is not unlike other developing countries; mainly just a ditch dug into the ground. These ditches can be found in very close proximity to homes and playgrounds. Tom and Jamie saw six or seven open spaces where children were playing soccer or other sports; only one of those spaces was not adjacent to sewers. Often when the balls go out of bounds, the balls end up in the sewage and the children will try to recover the ball. This is obviously a very serious health issue.

Health and Nutrition.

Children look much younger than they are and adults look much older than they are. This is due to malnutrition. It is common to see a child that appears to be about 3 or 4 years old but may actually be seven. An adult that is in his or her 20’s may look as though he or she is closer to 40. Skin lesions are very common and a lot of children are affected by kwashiorkor which is a severe form of malnutrition that supposedly occurs when there is not enough protein in the diet; symptoms include stunted growth, abdominal swelling, brittle or discolored hair (orange colored hair in Haitian children), diarrhea, lethargy, and skin discoloration. Those with kwashiorkor do not produce antibodies to fight against other diseases. Kwashiorkor can be treated with proper nourishment but can ultimately lead to physical and/or mental impairments, and in the severest cases, death. Doctors and nurses in the health clinics provide nutrients to pre-18 month in the form of a paste. The paste is similar to peanut butter and very high in protein. Each child is meant to receive two teaspoons a day. Before any child is allowed to eat the paste, however, he or she must receive antibiotics to treat intestinal problem – just about all children have GI infections or parasites. If the infections or parasites are not treated, the nutrients in the paste will not be absorbed. Unfortunately, quite a number of children arrive at the health clinics well past the point of being able to receive treatment. In the end most can only receive hospice care. When they pass away they are typically wrapped in plaster of Paris, as coffins are too expensive, and then they are buried. The average life span is 47 to 48 years old.


Tom and Jamie visited 3 different educational institutions; Becky DeWine School, Secretary School, and the Haitian Education Leadership Program. The Becky DeWine School was founded by a Catholic priest from Ohio. There are 25 rooms where about 1500 children in secondary school learn subjects such as Latin and Geography. Even adults will attend classes or teach a class mainly to get food. Kids and adults admittedly attend the school because it is a guaranteed meal. They get one meal a day of mainly rice and beans. The Secretary School is under a giant tarp and church pews make up the seating. There are about 8 different age groups that attend. They do get food from the school but not every day. The first thing teachers will ask from visitors is if they have money to donate for food. The Haitian Education Leadership Program was founded by Conor Bohan. Children from Haiti that achieved the highest standardized test scores received scholarships to attend courses and also live at the school. These are some of Haiti’s most bright students who are optimistic and see a future for themselves and Haiti. Recently these students (about 20 or so) were recruited to conduct surveys throughout the encampments. They created a huge database of information and wrote a report that is available to the public (entire international community). The report can be found on-line and all the student’s names are cited as having conducted the research.


The children in Haiti are very fun loving and playful. They enjoy playing sports and games (like marbles). They have a sense of innocence and hope as normal children do. Perhaps their saving grace is that they don’t know any differently than what they’ve experienced. Tom and Jamie experienced that Haitians were very patient, generous and receptive. It seems that Haitians tend to work together as a community. There is an understanding that they each play a valuable role in the community, and that they need to rely on each other. The majority practice Catholicism and/or Voodoo. They are very spiritual, and musical. Tom and Jamie were invited to the funeral of a man who was killed in a business dispute, and at the funeral there was a lot of chanting and singing.

Internal and External Aide

Lamps for Haiti.

The healthcare clinic was founded by attorney Tom Griffin and is located in Wharf de Soleil. The building was once the home of a drug lord; his four room home was built behind 12 foot high walls with palm trees planted within the enclave. The drug lord was sent to prison, and in his absence the home was turned into the health clinic. Carpenters volunteered their time to fix up the building. They created cabinetry and put up new walls. They built a warehouse to hold medical supplies. Haitian born and trained doctors were hired to work there, as were three Haitian nurses. Doctors from the United States also provide medical services. Each visiting doctor sees about 60 patients.

The American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross is providing 4,000 people with water daily. $400 million has been raised by the Red Cross. The money is going towards water and basic amenities. They are also providing immunizations camp by camp with 5 other National Red Cross societies. The money is also going to be invested in microenterprises. It is important to ensure that the money does not go to the Haitian government; it must go to local small businesses, and enterprises. It is also even more important that the Haitians be involved in rebuilding; it has to grow directly from the Haitian’s own talents and infrastructure – no outside influence.

Pan American Health Organization

Pan American Health Organization built a warehouse about 200 yards long for storing medicine. Doctors from legitimate hospitals and organizations can order medicine from the warehouse. The warehouse is run by a U.S. Marine who has dual citizen ship with Haiti. She is very tough, frank and direct with people when they come to ask for medicine. She demands absolute proof that the person requesting medicine is a practicing doctor and not someone looking to sell the medicine on the streets. It is a very secure warehouse.

St. Damien’s Children’s Hospital.

St. Damien’s was established by a Catholic Priest. He single handedly raised money for the hospital; many countries donated money. Mainly a triage center and it has a cemetery. Nuns who had worked at the clinic and had died in the earthquake are buried there. There is also a Voodoo temple onsite.

Local Contractor

Since there are no public toilets or showers, a contractor who lives in Haiti has initiated a project to build one. The entire community is coming together to help unload cement by hand. This public facility will serve about 200,000 people.

Brazilian Peace Keepers

In Wharf de Soleil, Brazil has stationed uniformed peace keepers to prevent outbreaks of violence. Their presence is a bit intimidating as they are carrying automatic weapons. A lot of the Haitians are reticent to go to Lamp for Haiti for medical treatment when the peace keepers are around.

Immediate and Major Needs

Better Roads

The road system in Haiti is pretty poor as are the roads themselves. A 3 to 4 mile trip can take as long as two hours.


There is some vegetation in the cities, but barely any in the rural area because of the deforestation and poor top soil. So far there is no strategy or major plan for how to resolve this issue.


More money needs to be invested in providing water, and better sewage systems.

Nutrition/Medical Treatment

Children are in desperate need of protein and nutrition. Jamie brought along two baseball duffle bags of protein bars to give out. Again, the protein can only be absorbed once the GI infections and parasites are treated. Medicine and antibiotics are needed as well.


A lot of children do not have clothes. Some may have t-shirts to wear but no pants. It is recommended that people donate money rather than ship clothes; though clothes are certainly welcome. The money can be invested in the small businesses in Haiti that sew and sell clothes.


As mentioned earlier, the tents and tarps in the encampments are fire hazards. Also, they will not be able to withstand the rainy season and hurricane season which runs from June to November. Proper, safer structures need to be erected immediately.


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