Haiti, which is considered one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, was thrown into a state of emergency in 2010 after a crippling earthquake shook the nation.
Some 300 000 people were killed, with many more left injured and homeless. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced in the wake of the disaster. The initial earthquake had a 7.0 magnitude and was followed by a number of major after-shocks during the next several days.
So severe was the quake that buildings simply disintegrated, killing and trapping innumerable numbers of people. Port-au-Prince was particularly hard-hit and the city, already suffering from inadequate infrastructure and reeling from two earlier tropical storms and two hurricanes, was ill-equipped to handle a disaster of this magnitude.
Gift of the Givers Response:
Our response to the massive devastation resulting from the Haiti earthquake was to launch a multiple team mission to the stricken country, together with what ultimately amounted to a 560-ton emergency relief package.
We immediately sent a 10-member Search and Rescue Team to Haiti, accompanied by a group of skilled professionals in disaster response, urban rescue and advanced life support. This team carried with it R2,5 million worth of heavy rescue equipment so as to be able to actively assist in locating survivors in the rubble. A substantial amount of essential and emergency medicines also accompanied the team. A mission highlight was the team's rescue of 64-year-old Ena Zizi who had been trapped under rubble for eight days without food or water, little oxygen and a fractured hip.
Given the severity of the disaster, we quickly realised the need for - and dispatched - a second eight-member Search and Rescue Team, with a third team, this time comprising highly skilled trauma and medical specialists, inclusive of orthopaedic, trauma and maxillofacial surgeons, anaesthetists and advanced support paramedics quickly following. This team took with it substantial additional medical supplies. Our medical teams worked feverishly to establish hospital facilities, set-up another primary health-care clinic and treated a massive influx of patients, collectively treating thousands of patients, carrying out surgical procedures and life-saving amputations. Through all this, our teams ensured skills transfer, providing on-the-job training for junior doctors from other countries.
Simultaneously, we ensured that the massive supplies package, inclusive of 80 tons of freshwater, tents, blankets, water purification tablets, non-perishable food items, high-energy protein supplements, bottled water, generators, cooking pots and plastic dishes, soft toys and stationery items for children, as well as additional medicines and other medical supplies was rolled-out to Haiti's quake survivors during the ensuing several weeks.