DOWNTOWN — Doctors and nurses with Santa Monica-based International Medical Corps are on the ground in Haiti providing treatment to the thousands who were injured during the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the island nation Tuesday.
The International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team is in Port-au-Prince assisting survivors, with members of the team reporting serious shortages of supplies and facilities suitable for patients.
Doctors are working out of hotels and are sleeping in tents because it is too dangerous to move indoors because of aftershocks, said Maisie Cunningham, a donor relations officer for the corps, which has been based in Santa Monica for 25 years.
“It’s pretty dreadful,” Cunningham said. “It is beyond anything we could have imagined. There is no place to bury people, resources are incredibly limited, with the doctors scraping together supplies and working out of hotels. It is incredibly challenging.”
International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response draws on 25 years experience in emergency settings, including last September’s earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, and the massive 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
The team of healthcare professionals, who are all volunteers, arrived in Haiti within 22 hours after the quake, landing in the Dominican Republic before making their way into the disaster zone.
On their way in, the doctors and nurses reported a surreal scene. Most of the city was without electricity, yet random traffic lights were operational. Streets they drove down were strewn with rubble and fallen cables and littered with vehicles and buses that crashed as the quake struck.
People lined the streets, standing away from buildings and quietly sitting in a daze, exhausted and affraid of the next aftershock. Many injured people were helpless in the crowds and many dead bodies were stacked up alongside the road, team members said.
“People are afraid to go indoors because of aftershocks, so most of the care is being provided outside,” Margaret Aguirre, director of global communications for International Medical Corps, told Reuters. “We are working with the few Haitian health workers that are here. The goal is to provide triage and basic treatment with the limited staffing and supplies that we have.”
Most patients are suffering from broken bones, but some are in more serious condition and there is no hospital to refer them to, Aguirre said.
Another 13 doctors, the majority from Stanford University, are being deployed, Cunningham said. The doctors are in desperate need of supplies and those interested in helping are urged to donate money to the International Medical Corps in Santa Monica by visiting their Web site at www.imcworldwide.org or by texting “Haiti” to 85944. A $10 charge will be added to your mobile phone bill.
Donations can also be made at the corps’ headquarters at 1919 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 400. Checks can be mailed to the address also. The zip code is 90404.
“We are just trying to spread the word to the local community about what we do, that we are here in Santa Monica and that the best way for them to help is to donate,” Cunningham said.
Another way to donate
In what is sure to be the most visually dazzling Haiti fundraiser of them all, a group of amateur gymnasts, tumblers, jugglers and others this Sunday will swing from the rings, walk the tight-rope and climb 20-foot-high ropes at Santa Monica’s famous Muscle Beach.
“Whatever it is, we’ll take it,” said Pepperdine psychology professor Jessica Cail, who is organizing the effort.
The Santa Monica Ringers, a fixture at Muscle Beach each weekend, have held fundraising efforts before, collecting more than $1,200 for the Red Cross’ 9/11, tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina Relief funds.
When Cail and fellow Ringers saw photos of the devastation in Haiti, they knew it was time to hold another fundraiser.
“We are going to try to get the crowd involved as we do every weekend,” Cail said. “If they want to learn how to walk the slackline, swing on the rings or take a picture with one of the big muscled men, whatever they want us to do, we’ll offer ourselves up for a donation.”
Muscle Beach is located on Ocean Front Walk just south of the Santa Monica Pier. The Santa Monica Ringers will be there to entertain from 1:30 p.m. to sunset.