health care

Panel provides perspective Haitian earthquake

Posted 2/7/11

PROVIDENCE – The courage, good nature and hope – and a faith in God’s providence – is striking among the Haitians who are struggling to rebuild their lives, their family and their communities after the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, says Dr. Timothy Flanigan, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rhode Island and The Miriam Hospitals and professor of medicine at Warren Alpert Medical School.

Flanigan, who is working with others at the school to establish partnerships with medical facilities in Haiti, recently discussed his experiences in Haiti – and the continuing medical challenges – as part of a panel discussion at Brown University.

“It is extraordinary to see the heroism, industriousness and hope of the Haitian people. Although the pictures are depressing, the people are inspiring,” Flanigan said.

Cholera is the most recent scourge to haunt Port-Au-Prince and other parts of Haiti, according to Flanigan. “Clean water and good sanitation are in very short supply. Cholera thrives in such an environment,” he said.

Haitians, the medical infrastructure and the relief community are responding as best it can, he continued. “Much of the work is admirable. Cholera could be treated very effectively for just pennies a day using oral rehydration solution,” he said. “This is being done effectively.”

The International Aid Community raised unprecedented amounts of funds due to the generosity of people around the world in the aftermath of the earthquake, but much of the money is not spent, according to Flanigan. “Haiti is, in many ways, a failed state despite the heroism, courage and hope of its people. The government is often ineffective, security is provided by the United Nations and corruption is rampant,” he said.

In order for Haiti to truly rebuild, Flanigan believes that effective partnerships are needed to develop and strengthen institutions.

One of the best examples of such development linked with friendship is The Haitian Project, which was founded in Providence supports the Louveture Cleary School outside of Port-Au-Prince, according to Flanigan. The director of The Haitian Project, Deacon Patrick Moynihan, is a Brown University graduate who has lived in Haiti with his family for the last 10 years. The school of more 350 students is thriving despite a rather bare bones infrastructure, according to Flanigan.

Brown University Medical School has partnered with Hospital Saint Damien as well as University Notre Dame and other universities in Haiti to facilitate medical education.

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