Staff at Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti, which operates in partnership with the CRUDEM Foundation, labored long and hard In advance of Hurricane Irma to safeguard the 125 patients there. The most vulnerable patients were moved to a windowless room in the surgery building. All windows were boarded up, drain ditches cleared, and equipment and supplies moved to secure locations within the hospital complex.
Despite being spared the full force of Hurricane Irma, the hospital and the town of Milot endured fierce thunderstorms. Major flash flooding attacked the water soaked-land in Irma’s wake, including the grounds of some hospital buildings. Torrential rains caused the local river to rise and burst its banks. Many of the villagers watched as their small food stocks, bedding and meager belongings were washed away. The next morning, in a short break from the rain, hospital CEO Harold Previl and staff helped distribute food—a vital measure because many of the people had no cooking facilities or access to clean water.
In the aftermath, the hospital faces the following challenges:
- hunger and disease, with cholera already at a crisis level;
- damaged food stocks, destroyed livestock, ruined crops and salt-soaked fields, all leading to a marked increase in malnourishment;
- standing water attracting mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, malaria, dengue chikungunya and lymphatic filariasis; and fecal-fouled water supplies increasing bacterial infection risk; and
- mud slides combining with damaged roads to cripple supply chains while the sharp devaluation of the Haitian gourde increases the cost of fuel and imported food.
Mercifully the hospital survived. In 2010, a major earthquake forced the 90-bed hospital to ramp up to 600 beds. After Irma, supplies for hydration therapy, antibiotics, diesel fuel for the generators, sterile cleaning materials, even brooms and door mats, will be needed. But, having learned valuable lessons in emergency from the earthquake, the hospital staff was well prepared to handle this latest disaster challenge.