UNMC doc urges help for Haiti

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January 12th, 2011

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A tent city set up in Haiti, after a devastating earthquake one year ago (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Lincoln, NE – It’s been a year since a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti. It left more than 100,000 people dead, many more injured and homeless. Mike Tobias talked about the current situation with a University of Nebraska Medical Center administrator who has seen the devastation of his homeland first-hand.

Dr. Rubens Pamies has made three trips to Haiti since the earthquake, leading teams of UNMC and other health care professionals. The most recent trip was last August. A doctor and vice chancellor at UNMC, Pamies said the Haitian recovery has been slow.

“By and large, there hasn’t been any major movement in terms of providing more permanent shelters for any of the folks who live there,” he said.

“No sort of economic revival, there’s no major medical sort of coordinated effort going on. There’s just basically a lot of organizations, sort of taking care of sections.”

Billions of dollars were donated or pledged for earthquake relief, but recent reports have shown that much of this money has not made it to Haiti. That’s frustrating for Pamies, who has seen the half million people still living in crowded tent cities, people who, since the earthquake, have dealt with a cholera outbreak and other health issues that came with living in conditions Pamies called deplorable.

“The conditions that these individuals are living in are just so perfect for outbreaks of all kinds of things, including, quite frankly, violence.”

Pamies is eager to take another team of Nebraska health professionals back to Haiti in the near future. In the meantime, he’s put together a book that shares personal accounts and photos from past relief workers. It’s called “Help and Hope for Haiti.” Pamies said it includes heart-wrenching stories of the tragedy, but also optimism that the country can rebuild. He hopes the book helps people remember what happened just a year ago.

“We shouldn’t forget about this,” he said. “This is an ongoing issue and it shouldn’t be just on the anniversary, but it should be something that we need to continue to do.”

All proceeds from sales of “Help and Hope for Haiti” go to the UNMC Haitian Relief and Outreach Fund.

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