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Haiti – Notes from a slightly more tired emergency health advisor

Day 5 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti – can feel that my eyes are starting to find it difficult to focus, and it is time to go back to the tent for the night. Work starts at 7 or 8 every morning and finishes at around 11 or 12pm – everyone in the team is going on all cylinders to get the necessary help to the population, and start to see an impact.

The last 5 days have involved a variety of activities. Writing strategies which try to build back better with more resilience against future emergencies (such as the hurricanes which are due in a few months). I have been trying to budget for the emergency response, and urgently procure huge quantities of medicines and medical supplies. I have attended the health coordination meetings, trying to coordinate amidst the chaos of numerous agencies packed into a small tent. Another coordination challenge is communicating with the other teams in Leogane and Jacmel, 2 other affected towns in Haiti.

The mobile clinics started working in the camps today, which was great to see following the background work of recruiting the medical staff, assessing the camps, printing the reporting forms and organising the medicines and equipment.

There are still many challenges remaining in the coming weeks. There are many areas that are still yet to receive support, and there is the challenge of identifying these areas in the midst of the humanitarian flurry of activity. There are many different types of organisations working in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. There is the government and the national organisations, which have been severely traumatised by the disaster, but are starting to try to tackle the problems.

There are the traditional international organisations, with NGOs such as Save the Children and UN agencies such as WHO – these organisations know each other well as they have worked on many emergencies together, and know each other from coordinating regularly during the rest of the time. There is a significant mititary presence, that brings a huge logistical might, but are not used to working with other humanitarian organisations.

In Haiti, there have also been numerous smaller organisations establishing operations – these organisations have been able to save many people in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, but now it is important that those supporting the people of Haiti are able to stay for the next year in order to create stability in the humanitarian effort and to help Haiti to get back on its feet.

I think that it is time to get back into the tent, hoping for not too many aftershocks or shots during the night, as it would be useful to get a good nights sleep – I am sure there is more work to do in the morning!

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