Page last updated at 02:16 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Haiti quake: Aid workers' diaries, Monday 18 January

Haiti quake injuries. Photo: David Darg
Thousands of survivors are fending for themselves

Nearly a week after the Haiti earthquake struck, tens of thousands of victims are still waiting for aid, despite huge international efforts.

Aid workers involved in the operation have been sharing their accounts with the BBC News website.


Today we opened up our hospital in Cap Haitian, to admit the first patients for treatment from Port-au-Prince.

We know the next days will bring many more and we are aware that this will create a new crisis.

None of the aid agencies are distributing medical supplies to the north of Haiti and this is now urgent.

We need antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, analgesics, IV fluids, antibiotics, casts, crutches... plus volunteer doctors.

We urge all agencies to be aware of this growing situation. We don't want to see another crisis develop over refugees in the north.

We can cope, provided we get the aid that everyone thinks they have given directed here, now.

There have to be aid supplies right across Haiti. There were never any reserves in the hospitals before the earthquake.

And there is nothing now.


Aid worker Sarah Gillam
Sarah Gillam: "People are selling fruit, clothes and shoes on the street"

People are still texting from under the rubble but there is little organised help to reach them. The US army believes there are 200,000 dead in the city and you can smell the stench as you pass the city cemeteries.

I spoke to many families - all had lost someone and were living out in the open on the streets. All needed food, shelter, clothes, and chlorine to purify stream water. All had only the clothes they stood up in and spoke of having had lucky escapes.

One of my colleagues, Mario Diaz, visited two large refugee camps in Mariani finding babies, children and pregnant women in improvised conditions, many with nothing to protect them from the blazing sun. Many were injured and there were still a lot of dead bodies rotting in the open air. The water nearby is contaminated with dead animals and there were no toilets.

Food is a real problem with very few people able to afford the rising prices and many having no money at all. Several of the banks are now rubble. People are selling fruit, clothes and shoes on the street. Today in Mariani we are distributing 17 cases of reinforced protein peanut butter giving a meal to at least 2,550 people together with vital medicines.

Our staff are caught up in this too. Jean Claude Fignole, our Haitian country director, is sleeping in a tent with his wife and small children as his house was damaged by the quake. Our finance manager Jude Jean Baptiste spent seven hours getting his wife out of the rubble and has thrown open his house for ActionAid to use as an office. The programme manager has lost her brother in law.

Looking to the future, when the hurricane season hits in May, if people are still living like this, the outcome will be catastrophic.


This morning our team left the airport and headed to the soccer stadium but were stopped by a road block of tree branches manned by Haitians desperate for food.

Our interpreter explained we had only medical supplies and the branches were pulled back and we were allowed to proceed.

David Darg (left) with Eric Lotz from Operation Blessing
David Darg (left) with Eric Lotz from Operation Blessing

Port-au-Prince's maze of narrow streets made for difficult driving before the quake - now they are strewn with the wreckage of crushed cars and collapsed buildings.

When we did stop crowds gathered around us. Some were banging on the window and gesturing they were hungry - a few tried to grab at the doctors' clothing through the window.

As we set up our clinic at the stadium, people began to bring injured relatives and friends and lay them on the ground in front of us.

Our Israeli paramedics kicked into emergency mode and began to treat trauma cases immediately. Children with gaping head wounds lay screaming and confused. We were shocked that so few had received any kind of treatment. So many wounds had started to turn septic and the doctors had to create a section for people who needed emergency operations and amputations.

Several men came running into the stadium carrying a teenage girl they had just pulled from the rubble. At first, we all thought she was dead but one of the doctors detected a pulse and we saw her take a few shallow gasps of air. She reeked of death having been buried next to other bodies that were killed instantly in the quake. We rushed her to the hospital where she underwent surgery and now she is in a stable condition.

Seeing this miraculous recovery before my eyes was one of the most profound moments I have ever experienced. Just this one life saved has made all the lost sleep, the sweat, the struggle to get here and any other adversity seem more than worthwhile.

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