As Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti this week, the staff and volunteers with the Sisters of Mercy Services Corporation were watching the situation closely.
The Team Mercy #15 group that traveled to Haiti in 2016 included CEO Tim Johnston (back left), and Medical Director Dr. Ellen Lawson (front center).
The North Carolina-based urgent care operation formed “Team Mercy” in 2010 and have sent volunteer groups to Haiti 14 times. Another Team Mercy trip is planned for next month but might happen sooner depending on the outcome of this week’s Category 4 hurricane.
The storm has sustained winds of 145 mph and is dropping heavy rain across Haiti, potentially devastating town and villages, according to news reports. The poor Caribbean nation is still struggling to regain its footing almost seven years after an earthquake killed 316,000 people, injured another 300,000, and spurred a cholera epidemic.
Cholera is a big concern of Dr. Vladimyr Roseau, who runs the clinic in Cabaret that the Sisters of Mercy team helped establish. The waterborne disease is a chronic issue in Haiti. At its peak during the outbreak, approximately 25,000 cases of cholera were reported monthly. And while the number has fallen it’s believed thousands are still sickened by the deadly diarrheal disease each month.
If not treated properly cholera can cause death by dehydration in less than a day – however, a lifesaving treatment (a mixture of electrolytes and water) can prevent death in up to 80 percent of cases. Those who volunteer with Team Mercy and work in Haiti are trying to raise awareness about cholera and treatment.
The disease has proven difficult to eradicate in Haiti because of ongoing sanitation issues. Many in the country live without improved water and sewage systems, which make it nearly impossible to stop the spread and transmission of the cholera bacteria.
Roseau spoke at a church near the clinic on Sunday about health concerns, said Sharon Owen, executive assistant to the CEO at Sisters of Mercy Services Corp. He used his time to speak with parishioners about the public health issues, such as cholera, likely to arise from the hurricane.
“Prevention is the best medicine,” he told the church.
Please keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts this week as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. And send positive energy to Sisters of Mercy and the next team they are sending to help in Haiti.
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Sisters of Mercy operates four urgent care centers in the Asheville, North Carolina region, with the proceeds benefitting benevolence activities worldwide.
UPDATED Oct. 7, 2016
From Sisters of Mercy Medical Director Dr. Ellen Lawson:
“I came back early from vacation this week to prepare to go to Haiti if needed. Our partners there (Drs. Vladimyr and Merline Roseau of the Alpha Omega Ministry) were north of Port-au-Prince and hit with rain and high winds, but were able to keep the clinic in Cabaret safely open with a skeleton staff. However, the area to the south was devastated. They report close to 300 deaths, and areas are completely cut off from communication and physically isolated because the rivers destroyed bridges and washed out the roads. Implications for the near future are infectious disease as cholera will spread due to the flooding, and people will have no food because it is harvest time, and the crops have all been destroyed. Dr. Roseau said the ten mobile clinic sites will be completely free for the near term because people will not even have $1 -$2 normally charged to pay for their visit or medication. He will need financial support to pay his staff and his rent at the one fixed clinic and to buy medication for the patients. It is so sad. There are still 55,000 people living in tent-like shelters since the earthquake SIX years ago. The largest slum in Port-au-Prince where we work, Cite Soleil, was flooded. NC Baptist Disaster Relief has asked us to continue in stand-by mode at this time.”