Help for Haiti
On 12 January 2010 Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7 earthquake, the country’s most severe in over 200 years. It was reported that the disaster left up to 316,000 people dead and 1.6 million homeless, although later reports found these numbers to have been grossly inflated, and put the death toll between 46,000 and 85,000, and approximately 4,000 had to have one or both legs amputated country as a result of the crush injuries they sustained. Even before the earthquake there were many amputees as a result of accidents, diabetes and other medical conditions, and although there were three existing orthopaedic centres in Port au Prince – all with long waiting lists for treatment, it was going to be an almost insurmountable challenge to cope with the increased burden as a result of the disaster without outside help.
Rotary Jaipur Limb Trustee Don Short and his wife Rosemary made the trip to Haiti in September 2010 and met up with other Rotarians from the Rotary District 7020 “Haiti Task Force” who had been given the task of coordinating all of Rotary’s massive response to the disaster. The Task Force, which included members from the eighteen Haiti clubs, advised that thousands of people had left the disaster area and returned to their home villages. Their best advice was that Rotary Jaipur Limb should centre its efforts on the Bienfaisance Hospital at Pignon, a small town northeast of Port-au-Prince, and a days’ drive over atrocious mountainous roads, although by light ‘plane it could be reached in less than 30 minutes. Don was impressed by the quality of Bienfaisance, a small teaching hospital with good staff and excellent facilities, but no Orthopaedic department! Once it was agreed that Bienfaisance was ideal for the project, a realistic timetable was drawn up. First to be built would be an Orthopaedic Workshop, financed by RIBI, who would then supply all the necessary equipment and materials for 500 limbs. Finance for the equipment was donated by the Rotary Club of Guildford with the addition of Rotary Foundation matching grant. When all these things were in place, local staff would be trained to make and fit limbs using the Jaipur technology. Next on the list of requirements would be the building of a Hostel for patients and their carers, financed by the Caribbean clubs in District 7020. The fourth part of the project, agreed with the Task Force, would be the building of a Residential Teaching School, financed jointly by District 1110, District 1160 and RIBI. The final and fifth element of the agreement would be the provision of an off-road 4×4 vehicle to give access to communities outside Pignon – financed by Rotary District 6910 in the USA, together with another Rotary Foundation matching grant.