Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The "End of the Road"

Tom Kirsch, M.D.
Emergency doctor and Go Team leade

I spent the last 3 days doing assessments. We were trying to identify areas with unmet needs to see if International Medical Corps can fill the gaps. We drove out of Port-au-Prince (PaP) to the west, down the long peninsula that reaches far into the Caribbean Sea to the towns of Leogane and Petit Goave. The road passes directly over the quake's epicenter and so the damage there was far greater than in PaP.

In some towns more than 90 percent of the buildings had collapsed. At points the road was ripped and roiled with larger fissures slashing along and across the road.
The area we went to was literally at the "end of the road."

The road started as a poorly maintained ribbon of asphalt that was more potholes than smooth and gradually faded away into a scrubby dirt track only suited for feet. Initially we drove through alternating areas of forest, banana or sugar cane farms, or crumbled towns. The dirt road started as a turn that ran south towards the mountains out of the town of Leogane through an essentially flattened town with few functioning buildings. Then it headed Southeast, paralleling a briskly flowing creek that was lined with shacks and concrete houses.

Only the shacks were really left because they were made of wood and palm fronds and metal sheets rather than the brittle and poorly reinforced concrete that crumbled into dust.

There were three scattered IDP (internally displaced people) camps along the roads. They were haphazard affairs with tents and shacks thrown together in closely-packed groups made from an assortment of tarps, scrap wood, and old, rusted corrugated metal sheets. The road ended at the last camp.

It was the worst of the lot. Only yesterday Save the Children had delivered tarps - which had been used to create shelters of a variety of interesting configurations. But there was nothing else there. They did have the creek which was used for drinking and washing and bathing and probably as a toilet.

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