Returning to Port au Prince

On the second day of Susan Phillips’ return to Haiti, she surveys the capital city Port au Prince and visits a medical center that cares for recent amputees. Look for her latest blog posts here, and listen for her audio reports on WHYY, 90.9 FM.

Friday, Jan. 14

From the air, Port au Prince looks like a tent city surrounded by barren mountains. More than a million people are still living in tents here, some with port-a-johns, but others still carved out of vacant, rubble-strewn lots.

Trash dumps form traffic islands in this busy, dusty, car-honking town. Although the Cholera epidemic has claimed more than 3,000 lives in this country, walking across a street could be more dangerous.

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Not far from the Port au Prince airport, American health care workers at the Centre de Sante Bernard Mevs work with recent amputees. It’s not just earthquake that took limbs, the city’s traffic accidents are as much to blame.

At the clinic, a Texan named Jason Miller says in the rush to save lives through amputations, many Haitians lack adequate prosthetics. Today, he helped take care of a five year old, whose survival was nothing short of a miracle. Rescue workers never found Fimee Dirogene’s leg when they found her lifeless and drained of blood. But today, she’s a curious, squirmy kid on the doctor’s table, soon to be outfitted with a better fitting socket. Depending how fast she grows, she’ll need several new prosthetics by the end of the year.

Miller says a big part of his job is helping get rid of the stigma associated with being an amputee. He’s helped start an amputee soccer league, and coaches his patients on how they can still move, live, and work.

All the talk in Port au Prince is about the Presidential elections. Who will be in the run-off, when it will be held, whether the current President Rene Preval will serve beyond the end of his term in February, and if there will be violence. Officials cancelled Sunday’s scheduled runoffs because of reports of widespread fraud in the original poll last December. An official announcement of what’s next is expected any day now.

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