This is my third trip to Haiti since May 2010 and as was the case in each of the last two trips, the airport is the most intimidating and somewhat overwhelming part of the entire trip. Once through customs you are immediately thrust into the reality of desperate people, as sometimes literally dozens of porters attempt to grab your bags and provide services in exchange for a tip. While it is hard to comprehend why they would fight over the right to carry your bags, to them, it is the reality of whether or not they can feed themselves and their family that day or not.
After checking into the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, the NPMA delegation was off to Grace Hospital to evaluate and provide pest management services. Grace is a children’s hospital that specialized in TB. The hospital was literally destroyed during the earthquake and services where now being provided primarily in tents while they rebuilt the hospital.
You would think that simple items like screens in windows to protect the kids from an epidemic of mosquitoes and flies would be standard in any new construction but in Haiti they are not included in the facilities; I assume, because of cost. The end result is almost heartbreaking. In any given room of the hospital flies, mosquitoes, mice and rats are common place. After an initial evaluation, the delegation provided much needed pest management services and over a two-day period installed screens on virtually every window at the hospital.
Day two took the delegation to the University of Miami hospital where we were greeted by a large group of American doctors and staff who immediately embraced our efforts with great gratitude. One doctor said that if she makes it home without malaria or diphtheria it would be because of the efforts of the NPMA delegation. The group constructed and installed over 50 screens and provided pest management services for the next 48 hours.
The last day a small group of the delegation revisited the Haiti community hospital which was the very first hospital visited back in July by the NPMA delegation. It made me laugh to watch Kevin Kordek get great enjoyment as he attempted to teach the Hospital kitchen staff how to set large rat traps without losing a finger in the process. The loud outcry of laugher from the ladies who he was teaching was one of the highlights of the trip.
Four days later, over 75 window screens installed and constructed and invaluable pest management services provided to three more hospitals, the very tired delegation departed for the airport and home. I’m confident in saying that all of us left knowing that the services that we provided and the helping hand giving during our stay may very well make the difference between life and death for a whole generation of Haitians.
Rob Lederer, Executive Vice President – NPMA