Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tropical Storm Noel

In the 90’s a hurricane hit Haiti. The wind blew non stop for 24 hours in the mountains on Haiti’s southern peninsula and the palm trees swayed surrounding the little hospital where I was working. Performing an appendectomy during the hurricane was an interesting experience.

Because of the storm, the patient population visiting the clinic slowed for many days. The roads were not passable. And patients became sicker because they could not access any health care facilities.

What is not understood by many is the horrible aftermath of hurricanes and tropical storms in the developing world. Life is not back to normal for a long time in Haiti due to the infrastructure damage. Haiti’s dirt mountain roads can’t take much.

During the last few days, Tropical Storm Noel recently caused severe damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Dozens of people have been killed, hundreds are missing, and thousands have been evacuated from their homes.

Haiti faces regular flash flooding during the rainy season. Deforestation heightens the risk of flooding as people and their homes are washed down the mountain sides. Parents need to decide which children to attempt to save from the water.

Crops are destroyed by the flood and stagnant water is a home for breeding mosquitoes that spread malaria and other diseases.

With Tropical Storm Noel, Cite Soleil has also been damaged with dirty water and filthy debris. Soleil sits on the edge of the ocean and water runs downhill from the mountainous Port-au-Prince. The medical clinic in Soleil closes during heavy rains and storms because employees of the clinic need to clean the dirty water out of their homes. Mothers don’t bring their children to the clinic for the same reason.

Makeshift shelters are set up but are seriously under equipped. So time passes and the kids become sicker and many die. Their deaths are never reported.

(Photos by the Associated Press)

To read about the chaos in Soleil due to Noel see this AP article.

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