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Helping Haiti is getting harder


WORLD Radio - Helping Haiti is getting harder

Natural disasters and gang violence overwhelm the under-developed country

A market vendor cries in the aftermath of a fire that swept through the 2000 Market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 12. Odelyn Joseph via The Associated Press

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

This week, leaders of Caribbean nations gathered in Jamaica for a meeting with one agenda item: helping the struggling nation of Haiti.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: The prime minister of the Bahamas, Philip Davis, urged the group to look for practical solutions to the complex problems.

PHILIP DAVIS: It is important that we recognize that what we are striving for may in the end may not be perfect but will likely be something that in the immediate term is effective, something that saved lives, something that brings an end to the killings, something that brings an end to the rapes.

The prime minister went on to list more problems that plague Haiti, including kidnapping, looting, and gang warfare.

REICHARD: And the list goes on. Last week brought a significant earthquake to the coastal city of Jeremie. Days earlier, heavy rainfalls caused floods and landslides that killed 51 people and destroyed more than 30,000 homes.

BROWN: Here to talk more about the situation in Haiti is David Vanderpool, a doctor with Live Beyond, the U.S.-based charity. He works at a hospital just north of the capital of Port-au-Prince.

REICHARD: Dr. Vanderpool, welcome.

DAVID VANDERPOOL, GUEST: Hey, thank you so much for having me today.

REICHARD: Glad you're here. Well, could you start by telling us a little bit about your work in Haiti? How long have you been involved and what does your organization do?

VANDERPOOL: Well, Live Beyond is an organization, a Christian organization that basically goes into the low income countries, such as Haiti, and provide for physical needs. So I'm a trauma surgeon and so we typically build hospitals, we train local physicians and nurses to a higher standard. We also build schools and churches and that kind of thing. And so we believe that taking care of people's physical needs is, is paramount, especially in these countries, these low-tiered countries. So we've worked in five countries worldwide, Haiti being the one of the worst, for sure

REICHARD: Well, when you speak with Haitians, which of their country’s many, many troubles are heaviest on their minds would you say?

VANDERPOOL: You know, that's a, that would be a hard question to answer. There are so many problems in Haiti that have been unresolved, you know, throughout the years. Haiti has been very high on the list of countries that have needed the most help for for hundreds of years, actually. And so, you know, basically to answer that globally, they want development. And by that, I mean, very little electricity, no running water, no sewage control. Food insecurity is always very high, and so there are many people who are starving. So it's really hard to pin down one of those. But it all falls under the rubric of a lack of development. Typically, people rush in and help Haiti acutely. And that's very important with all the earthquakes and hurricanes and things that they have. But then the development phase, which takes the longest that is actually the hardest thing to do is usually left undone. And so each successive disaster, like the one that we're looking at now, is bad, and it's worse.

REICHARD: How have the recent floods affected the humanitarian situation and your ability to help in Haiti?

VANDERPOOL: You know, it's really difficult. The flooding is primarily west of us, so we're on the east side of the country, our area doesn't flood that badly. But during the rainy season, this happens several times a year. So this, this very scenario, you could keep this copy and replay it next year, because there's going to be another disaster exactly like this. And it's very difficult because logistically, you can't drive from point A to point B, because the roads are washed out, the bridges are washed out. Now, with all the gang control of the country, it's too violent to actually distribute food or medical supplies, or whatever is needed in the parts of the country that are hit hardest. And so it's become much, much more difficult now than it ever was at the 2010 earthquake, just because of all the political instability and the violence that we face on on a daily basis.

REICHARD: I want to talk big picture now, Doctor. Your organization does mission work around the globe. So I'm wondering what similarities or differences do you see between Haiti's ongoing problems and the other places that you serve?

VANDERPOOL: Well, you know, that's a great question and one indicator of how a country is doing is maternal mortality. And so the women who die in birth or from birth complications, and so this indicates the infrastructure of the country, how they're taking care of vulnerable populations. And so most countries in the world, you look at all the very low tier countries in the world, most countries are improving their maternal mortality rate, which means that they're doing a good job in their countries, just a real basic indicator. Unfortunately, Haiti is, their maternal mortality rate is much worse today than it was in 2010 when we when we got there. And so Haiti is much worse than any other place that we've worked and we've worked in similar countries, they just are on an upward trajectory, whereas Haiti is on a downward trajectory. And that's something that needs to be stopped. This is this, this downward trajectory is harmful, not only for Haitians, obviously that's the biggest thing, but it's harmful for the entire region. And so Haiti, the region around Haiti is being destabilized because of this inability to provide basic services to its people.

REICHARD: You are such a happy guy, even though you see terrible things. What do you attribute that to?

VANDERPOOL: I tell you what, it's tough. We see so many terrible things. But you know that we are Christians. We believe in the Lord. He gives us joy. He is our joy. And so any joy that you see is, is coming from him.

REICHARD: Dr. David Vanderpool of Live Beyond, thank you for joining us. Really appreciate it.

VANDERPOOL: Thank you for having me.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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