The Sites, Sounds and Smells of Haiti

It is hard to believe how a two minute event can so dramatically change the lives in a very negative way for over 8,000,000 people but Haiti is living proof that it is possible. There is living proof and reminders everywhere you go on the strength of mother nature and the impact that a devasting earthquake can have on a society.

I will post many of the photos that I took during the day as I believe that photos can tell this story better than words. However, let me say up front that even these pictures can not truly capture the extent of the devastation nor the misery and poor quality of life experienced by the Haitian people.

We had the chance to visit the main depot of the sanitation department of Port au Prince. For a city exceeding one million people, living in squalor in many cases, there are seventy garbage trucks; but, only forty are in operation due to lack of parts and tires. The depot had mechanics sitting and staring at inoperable trucks sitting on blocks. Trashed dumpsters and older trucks made a big pile of steel waste…breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The day started off by a tour of the newest tent city that is sponsored by the Haitian government that will eventually house over 100,000 people. You will note in the photos that all the tents look the same and laid out in a much more organized fashion than the ones we visted later in the day.

On paper, the concept of a tent city in the desert area of Haiti away from the town makes a lot of sense. However, in reality it has many drawbacks. The only way they can attract the Haitian people to move to this area is to promise them all two weeks of free food and the hope of a job. The problem is that once the food runs out there is no source of new food and no way to make it back to downtown to get more food. The promise of jobs has not materialized and may never materialize. The end result is a mass evacuation of folks after their initial two weeks.

Short of a succesful pest management plan, the delegation is convinced that in a very short period of time rodents, flies and mosquitoes will overrun the camp and the public health concerns will resemble those of the existing tent cities that we visited.

A visit to a public hospital was enough to discourage us all. Imagine surgery suites overrun with flies and rodents, syringe needles laying all over the floor and human waste in buckets. Rodents feasting on the body parts of corpses that are laying openly on the floor. If you can paint that picture in your mind, you have an image of the conditions on the ground.

The day ended with one of the most visual and depressing visits to a long existing tent city full of kids who know only the reality of their current surroundings. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Rob Lederer

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Arrival in Haiti

Approaching Haiti by air was breathtaking. The line of Cuba and the color of the water was a brillant baby blue. The arrival at the airport presented two contrasting worlds.

As we walked down the stairs we were greeted by the airport employees who all had huge smiles and they greeted each and every one of us. A small band played in the background . . . and then reality hit. Once we left the gates of the baggage claim area, the day-to-day life of the Haitian people became reality – mass hysteria. It was a scene right out of the movie “The Killing Fields” as the Cambodian people stampeded to leave the country before the gates closed. Our bags were grabbed by hungry porters – – pushing and angry words followed. In one word – pandamonium! For a few mintues I wondered if we would survive the first few minutes of our trip.

We were so concerned about safety issues, we crammed 14 people and luggage into two of three rental cars we had ordered, while we waited desperately for the third to be located. Shortly thereafter, our hostess for the journey, Terry Boucard of Boucard Pest Control in Port au Prince, arrived and offered a breath of fresh air. She helped locate our third car, our armed-security guard, and our translator. Organization immediately replaced chaos.

Our delegation then met with the Minister of Environment and his team. They were incredibly appreciative of our group’s support and stressed how reliant they were on NPMA’s recommendations of where to start and what to do to alleviate the pest problems that are plaguing their nation. Despite all the problems with which they were dealing, they stressed that “their house was our house” and wanted us to feel welcome.

We were then whisked off to a private hospital where the delegation spent three hours inspecting the premises from top to bottom. At once, the reality set in on the true public health concerns facing the Haitian people. We saw incredible problems with rodents and flies and surgical rooms built over murky ponds covered with mosquitoes and holes in the ceilings allowing the insects’ free admission into what should be a sterile environment. Severed limbs and bodily fluids in open buckets cluttered the hallways. Sadly, just a few weeks ago, dead bodies were piled all over the exterior of the hospital, reminiscent of an ARMY MASH unit. The sanitation conditions are deplorable.

We then had the long journey back to the hotel. Nothing in Haiti happens fast. The traffic is horrible. After a lengthy, sobering set of instructions on how to evacuate the hotel in the event of an earthquake and precautions we should take, we were shown to our rooms. (Good advice to pay attention to as there have been two after-shocks this week, registering 4.4 and a 4.2.) While in the basement of the hotel with only one exit and a large crack on the ceiling, Raleigh and I should feel grateful as our room was mosquito free – though another in our party reported hundreds of mosquitoes in his room.

We then gathered for a bit of normalcy enjoying a wonderful dinner together as a group and celebrating our hostess’ birthday. Excellent food and excellent company. It was nice to take a short time out from the utter devastation we had seen. Driving through the streets and seeing whole communities just gone is a sobering experience.

Day two will bring us to four tent cities, the waste management area, and another hospital. Unfortunately, I fear that day two will offer even more visions of reality that are almost too difficult to comprehend.

For the delegation,
Rob Lederer

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Shirted Up and Ready to Go!

 

Our Haiti-bound pest management delegation is easy to spot in their fashionable NPMA Indiana-Jones style shirts!

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Ready or not here I come – Thoughts from Rob Lederer

As I sit in the Miami terminal ready to embark on what I’m certain will be a trip of a lifetime, it is hard for me not to reflect on the last 24 hours. If the next 24 hours are anything like the past 24, I’m certain it will be exciting. 24 hours ago I woke up in Fairfax, Virginia and headed to the voting polls for our local city election. My name was on the ballot for re-election for my fifth term as mayor of the City of Fairfax. While I was running unopposed, you never take any thing for granted in a local election. I’m proud to report, however, I was re-elected. My plan was to attend an election night celebration event, say a few words and head out to the airport to fly myself down to Miami for my early a.m. flight to Haiti. As a result of a voting machine glitch, what should have been a quick in and out event turned out to be a marathon and I headed out for the plane at 9:30 p.m. and a five hour flight at night into a very large and intimidating thunder storm. I arrived in Miami at 5 a.m. in time for a quick shower, a cup of coffee and a short walk to check in for my flight. Let’s hope I now have all the bad luck behind me and the next few days will be free of issues.

I have no idea what to expect over the next few days other than what is certain to be a life-altering trip and experience. While I’m not certain I want to go on this trip, I’m certain that it is the right thing to do and will present me with one of those few opportunities in life to truly make a difference in the lives of the people of Haiti. Just swalled my malaria pill and on my way!!!! Next stop – Haiti.

Rob Lederer

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Ready to Go!

OK, so the trip is only three days on the ground in Haiti. But precautions for three days are the same as for three months. From vaccinations to clothing preparation and communications plans, we need to have as much as possible thought out. What is tough on us is that all we know is what we see on the online news groups and there is no guarantee that areas that we will assess are the same as those images…for better or worse. It is T-minus five hours and change until we head to Miami for an overnight to all gather and then off to Port au Prince. Shirts came in today…we will all wear blue NPMA shirts and these had to be treated with permethrin as in insect repellent. The specially formulated treatment is especially important near cuffs, collars, etc. It was quite a view looking at all of those shirts treated in NC prior to going to Miami.There is an image of the shirts drying on a line posted.

Treating shirts with permethrin based repellent formumated for clothing is a must.

Now for sure this is not your normal trip to the Caribbean. Yes, we’ll have sunglasses and sun block, but there will be no light summer novels in our packs during the day and there will be no rum drinks to be sipped facing the azure sea as hours slip away. It will be all business and work. Final check list: DEET, malaria pills, antibiotics, clothing treated with permethrin, water purification bottles, mosquito netting, duct tape, energy snacks, hats, boots, rain gear, plastic bags, flashlight, rubber gloves, earplugs (so tainted water doesn’t get into your ears during showers). Check, check, check.

DEET, Mosquito Nets, First Aid Kits, Water Filtering Systems...all necessary for Haiti

Ready to roll. Wish us luck! Next report will be while on our way to Haiti!

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Threats of Disease Force Extra Caution

Considering that Haiti was one of the poorest counties in the Western Hemisphere before the earthquake, all involved knew that we had to take extra precautions to avoid disease in Haiti. Most went to medical facilities in the US specializing in foreign travel to get shots to prevent hepatitis, tetanus, and typhoid. We were then given preventative malaria regimens and also antibiotics to carry in case of GI disease. Missy Henricksen, PPMA Executive Director, coordinated all pre-trip efforts. It seems that each day had a new piece of information and of course, the information was usually a warning about disease. All in the group heeded advice and did what had to be done to prepare. It is hard to imagine that as we sit in our comfortable homes, there are others in our own Hemisphere who have no water, no sanitary facilities and have to worry about cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, malaria, and dengue. Even though malaria strikes less than 1,500 Americans each year (most after international trips), there have already been over a dozen cases of malaria in relief workers going to Haiti. And this is just the start of the rainy season. We also had to treat our clothing with permethrin and make sure that we carried DEET as well as pack long sleeve shirts and long pants. That will make some interesting topics for the videographers. So, why videographers? NPMA will not rest after this assessment trip. We will continue to help and the videographers will help document the situation so that we can show our industry what is needed as well as help us develop an action plan based upon video evidence. And that support is typical of NPMA members and will be vital for success in Haiti.

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Assembling the Team

With such a monumental task before them, the Haitian people realize that our industry will be able to provide assistance and help train but performing pest management nationwide is something that is virtually impossible for our industry. The intent of the invitation from the Minister of the Environment is to advice and assess pest management needs. We did have an opportunity to talk with a member of NPMA based in the Port au Prince area, Terry Boucard and her coworkers. Terry was instrumental in briefing NPMA on the situation and also coordinating efforts within Haiti, finding accommodations, and handling logistics. NPMA is very grateful for efforts of the Boucards. As events unfolded, we did find that our efforts would be focused on structural pests. Mosquito control was being handled by a vector task force and coordinated by the government of Haiti, CDC, and Mentor Initiative. Mentor is a non-profit dedicated to malaria control throughout the world, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters.  We did our homework by talking with Mentor’s Haiti director, Michael Alberts. He briefed us on what to expect in terms of safety, disease, and daily life in Haiti.

With this information, we assembled a team. Each person has a particular expertise. The group includes:

NPMA president Raleigh Jenkins, ABC Pest and Lawn

Rob Lederer, Chief of Operations in Haiti and NPMA EVP

Greg Baumann, Coordinator of Technical Ops in Haiti and NPMA VP Technical Services

Trevor Lubbert, Technical,  National Institutes of Health

Bob Young, Technical and Ops, Terminix

Frank Meek, Technical, Orkin

Ward Combs, Ops, Rentokil

Tom Nishimura, Technical, BASF

Chris Foster, Videographer

Joe Hope, Technical, Bayer

Lee Whitmore, Technical and Ops, Fumigation, Beneficial Exterminating

John Koengetter, Videographer

Terry Clark, Technical, Clark Pest Control

Phil Pierce, Technical, Western Pest Services

Following multiple calls, the group was ready to put the plan into place.

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