November 11, 2021 Update:
Since returning to Haiti in late October, we have been very busy dealing with the fuel shortages, lack of food and medical supplies, and ongoing problems with water. While the medical teams can’t go out to the mountains because there is no fuel, we were able to plan and complete a successful training on November 2, 2021 despite the fuel problems. We contacted 50 health providers, and almost half (3 doctors and 21 nurses) were able to attend. They all completed a certification training in Clinical Breast Examination. The furthest distance represented was the medical director of the hospital in Anse d’Hanault, a 5-hour drive from Jérémie, followed by another from Abricots, a 2-hour drive.
Our next blog will describe this and other activities of the breast cancer program in more detail.
Because there is such limited fuel, we are rationing our diesel and hoping for a few hours of local EDH power every day or two. We are fortunate to have solar panels on each guest house and we are using charcoal (made from our own fallen trees and branches) and propane to cook. Gasoline sells for as much as $30 a gallon or more when it can be found. Demonstrators had been stopping motorcycles to take the gas to burn tires so that depleted all local supplies. This has stopped in the last week.
Most people are on foot this week…and, since mules were replaced by thousands of motorcycles, young men who earned their way as taxi men are in big trouble. Our volunteers continue to discreetly bring food to elders, but the young people are desperately hungry. There are so many road blocks that the only transport in town is motorcycle.
Harvesting the glass eels (called elvers in the United States) is a major source of income. These are early juvenile eels which are caught and shipped to Asia for aquaculture to become adult eels, a major source of food in Japan and other Asian countries. We see the lights of the fishers in the ocean at night as they camp on the shore and net the eels. This is the only source of income for about a thousand people living along the shore here and in other places, too. Planes still fly in and buy these live baby eels to ship overseas. The major money goes to the exporters with a small portion going to the fisher people.
I hope there are still mules out in the villages, since this is a well-established way to get goods to and from remote places. It used to be the only way, and I remember many trips on them to do rural clinics. There are no busses, no trucks with goods, and no boats. The only bridge into town is broken so that only foot traffic is possible. While it is sometimes possible to cross the Grand’Anse River by vehicle at ford points, the heavy rains have prevented even this means of getting goods and supplies across the river for many days. Only large MAC trucks can pass through. The main market in Jérémie was closed, so other small markets are timidly appearing on the outskirts to help folks survive. As of November 4th, the markets and banks are open.
In terms of food, avocadoes are being harvested now and there has been rain so there are greens to forage. Fishermen are out doing their best but there is no movement to other coastal towns.
We have been fortunate that internet and phones have been relatively stable. The internet cables were cut in several places a couple of days and long strips of the wiring were stolen, but Natcom has been trying to keep up with it. So far, we haven’t lost phone communication, even though there have been many demonstrations against Digicel company
We can’t start rebuilding because there is no way to get cement and the sand is on the other side of the bridge. But we have created several cash for work projects including men making charcoal, young women sewing knitted knockers with fiberfill and beads, and other jobs small jobs so we can get money into the economy.
A severe lack of a specific treatment here in the Grand’Anse leaves any unvaccinated male open to death by tetanus – a horrible death with unrelenting seizures and cardiac arrest. The immediate treatment for a dirty machete wound, or lash from rusty tin roofing, or a crush injury is tetanus immune globulin, an injection. Shortly after the earthquake, I went to the ER at St. Antoine Hospital and asked what they needed. They said, SAT (serum anti tetanique). They had none. After contacting many in international and national disaster work, it became clear that there was none for Haiti. The price is $500 per dose and it needs to be kept at a cool temperature and shipped into the county. We never did get any vials. The severely wounded needing advanced care after the earthquake were evacuated by the US Coast Guard helicopters and HERO medical personnel. We heard that there were deaths from tetanus in Port-au-Prince but we do not have details.
In general, we feel safe, although it is still difficult to get money from the banks to get other things done.
We are still preparing for medical teams who will return to rural villages.
Somehow the work does not stop…