As everyone knows, a disastrous earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010 resulting in one of the most severe natural disasters ever to strike in the Western Hemisphere. Some 3 million people were affected, including at least 92,000 deaths (estimates have been between 92000 and 316000) and 300,000 injuries. Over 1 million Haitians became homeless through the quake, which ripped through most of the city of Port-au-Prince and wreaked devastation to other population centers such as Leogane, Jacmel and Les Cayes. Only 28,000 have been able to find new homes. Many of those injured, as shown and discussed in many news articles and television reports suffered amputations and other severe orthopedic disorders.
Haiti, even before the earthquake, was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Services for persons with disabilities were few and were not responsive to the needs of persons with disabilities. Under normal circumstances, the need for rehabilitation assistance is greater in Haiti than in most places in the world. Disease, unsafe conditions and poor maternal health care all contribute to a high prevalence of orthopedic injuries and disorders. The disaster has increased vulnerability in these areas and caused special consequences. For example, it was frequently reported during the rescue phase that many persons trapped in demolished buildings needed to be amputated in order for them to be saved. An estimated 2,500 persons have required amputations as a consequence of the earthquake. Many more individuals in Haiti, who are amputees from other causes, remain unserved because services are lagging so far behind the need. Moreover, treatment centers such as Ecole St. Vincent were damaged by the earthquake.
Ecole St. Vincent
Prosthetic and orthotic services in Haiti began with a rehabilitation center in Port-au-Prince built in 1961 by WRF and named for Eugene Taylor – an associate of WRF founder, Dr. Howard Rusk. WRF assisted a remarkable nun of the Episcopal Church, Sister Joan, who had founded in 1945, the only school for children with disabilities in Haiti-Ecole St. Vincent. The Eugene Taylor Prosthetics and Orthotics Shop was built on the campus of the school and its main technicians are two gentlemen with disabilities who can neither hear or speak. In the early 1990s, WRF came to the assistance of the school again, providing a new oven, supplies and materials and technical assistance to upgrade the capacity of the workers there. Earlier in this decade, WRF contributed funds through a collaborating organization, Haiti-New Jersey Partners of the Americas, to repair the prosthetics/orthotics space after damage by a hurricane.
Hospital Adventiste d'Haiti
Hospital Adventiste d’Haiti was built in 1978 in Port-au-Prince with the support of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It has been receiving support from Loma Linda University in California since 1980, including the provision of orthopedic services. The hospital was not damaged by the earthquake and has become a center for treating those afflicted with orthopedic injuries from the earthquake. A partnership has been developed including Loma Linda University, Prosthetika Inc (of San Raphael, CA), and WRF/Haiti-New Jersey Partners of the Americas to develop prosthetic/orthotic services at this facility.
WRF has once again reached out to help persons with disabilities with Haiti to meet the needs of Haitians with disabilities. Collaborating organization, Prosthetika, Inc, provided a completely outfitted prosthetics/orthotics shop which has been built at Adventiste Hospital. With volunteers from Loma Linda University and other private prosthetists/orthotists and physical therapists services began in November 2010 at the hospital. WRF recruited a young man, who is a double amputee, himself who was influenced by WRF to become a prosthetic technician when he was with Ecole St.Vincent. He has been working at Adventiste and is being groomed by an expert technician from the US to become the future director of these services there. He is also still contributing some of his time at Ecole St. Vincent.
WRF has succeeded in obtaining a full replacement supply of machinery, materials and tools for Ecole St. Vincent, thanks in great part to a substantial donation by Polish Humanitarian Aid. Ortho Remedy has donated a substantial supply of components and Airwaves Global Logistics in Jamaica NY is generously flying these components to Haiti at no cost to WRF. An industrial oven, key to the production of appropriate technology prostheses and orthoses, was donated by Kyle Eckhart of Napa Valleu Prosthetics and Orthotics. The facility is still being readied for re-use while the workers there provide orthotic services that do not require use of special equipment. These services were initiated in September of 2010. It is expected that full services will be able to be resumed by April, 2011. At that point, WRF has pledged to arrange for training of personnel so that the services there as at Adventiste will be able to be provided by Haitians. WRF is working on a plan for this together with the Episcopal Church and Haiti-New Jersey Partners of the Americas. WRF also has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health of Haiti to pursue these efforts.