FIMA response to Earthquake in Haiti

A devastating earthquake of 7.0 magnitudes on the Richter scale hit the island of Haiti on January 12, 2010 just before 5:00 PM. The capital city of Port-au-Prince was the closest to the epicenter and sustained most of the damage. About a quarter million men, women and children have died and over 200,000 people are reported to have been injured. Out of the population of 10 million, 1-3 million have been internally displaced.

Haiti is already a country beset with extreme poverty, unemployment and disease in recent history, and this earthquake has further exacerbated these problems. Some of the statistics are staggering. There are very few children in Haiti; the average age in men is 53 years and in women is 56 years. One out of eight dies before they reach the age of 5. Medical facilities are scarce; there are only 2000 doctors in the country for a population of 10 million. The majority of the population has never seen a doctor in their lifetime. They also have the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the western hemisphere, second only to African sub-Sahara. The per capita income is equal to US $450 compared to $43,740 in the United States.

The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), one of the largest member associations of Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA) was among the first organizations to respond. Dr. Ismail Mehr, the chairman of IMANA Relief moved quickly, collaborating with Todd Shea, executive director of CDRS-Pakistan who has been providing logistics and much needed continuity in functions of IMANA and other teams in Haiti. Todd facilitated the connection with AIMER Haiti, a local community based organization. Bogeux Children Parc in Tibbare was converted into a mini hospital and an urgent care outpatient clinic. On day 5 post-earthquake, IMANA had a team on the ground in a functioning facility. So far, several teams of IMANA doctors from all specialties have come and gone, and teams are still arriving. A number of non-Muslim physicians from all creeds and beliefs have also joined the IMANA teams, giving a diverse flavor to the effectiveness of the relief work. Deployment of IMANA medical teams will hopefully continue through the month of March. Our team members are also assisting several other medical camps as needed. FIMA secretary Dr Tanveer Zubairi was in Los Angeles, California (USA) and visited the headquarters of UCP and Wheels of Humanity in North Hollywood. He had a formal meeting with its office bearers and its president. Their future rehabilitation services to Haiti were discussed.

I had the honor of representing FIMA in Haiti. I left for Haiti on February 3rd with my son Dr. Imran Malik who had previously worked with me in Pakistan during the major earthquake of 2005. Within an hour on my arrival in the camp, I operated on a 9 year old Haitian boy for a large umbilical hernia. We joined the IMANA team and performed multiple tasks at the site, where the outpatient clinic served about 300 to 350 patients a day for mostly primary care. Many of these patients walked several miles to see our doctors, some of them for the first time. Many ailments were earthquake related, from infected necrotic wounds to post trauma syndromes. The lack of food, medications and medical support has exacerbated their pre-existing medical issues. Gastro-intestinal, respiratory and pulmonary infections exist in huge number, and we debrided a large number of infected wounds caused by crush injuries. We spent the latter part of the days and sometimes nights volunteering in the General Hospital of Port-au-Prince. This largest hospital of Haiti had only 87 beds prior to the earthquake. Now, the building is severely damaged and currently functions in the tents installed in the adjacent streets.

While I was there, I had a strategic meeting with the board members of AIMER Haiti at Jean-Henry and Chantal Ceant’s residence, a key figure couple in Haiti and discussed the long term plans of health care provision by IMANA physicians and probably international teams from FIMA member countries. Various aspects of a medical clinic in underserved area of Haiti and possibility of a mobile clinic was discussed. Follow up conversations will continue insha’Allah. I had the opportunity to meet the CNN team in Port-au-Prince and briefed Dr. Sanjay Gupta and anchorman Anderson Cooper. Our team members also assisted actor Sean Penn in his facility to plan and deliver medical care.

As the nation of Haiti enters the rehabilitation stage of this major disaster, it needs medical care in the next months and years to come. After losing the infrastructure, the recovery is definitely far away. The people of Haiti need our help. We must join hands with IMANA and other NGO’s to fulfill this goal.

Respectfully submitted:
Dr Parvaiz Malik
President, FIMA

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