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At A Local Hospital In Haiti's Hard-Hit Southwest The Injured Continue To Arrive

A woman seeks treatment for her injuries at the Immaculée Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Wednesday.
A woman seeks treatment for her injuries at the Immaculée Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Wednesday.

LES CAYES, Haiti — Inside the gates of the Immaculée Conception Hospital in this seaside town, family members of a woman who just died have collapsed in each others' arms.

The woman's thin body is carried out on a stretcher. Wrapped tightly in a sheet, she's loaded into the back of a battered Chevy Suburban.

Even as the dead depart, more injured come in the front gate. They come in cars, on the back of motorcycles. Children are carried to the door. A woman limps in, her foot wrapped in cloth. A famous Haitian DJ called Tony Mix arrives and tosses money to the crowd.

Inside the wards, all the beds are full. Patients are lying on mattresses on the floor and on gurneys in the hallways.

Dr. Titus Antoine, center, treats a woman who was injured during the earthquake.
/ Octavio Jones for NPR
Dr. Titus Antoine, center, treats a woman who was injured during the earthquake.

"This person over here has head trauma," says Dr. Titus Antoine, who runs the emergency room. "This girl has a fractured femur."

He ticks through the tragedies spread out across his ER. Given that it's been five days since the quake hit, he expected the number of injured to start declining. But patients just keep arriving.

The staff are working non-stop, and Antoine says he, too, has been working around the clock.

"I have to because I have to control the emergency room. I have to stay," he says. "I go eat something and go back. I have to stay there to control everything, to do everything."

At the Immaculée Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, people are treated for injuries suffered during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the city on Aug. 14.
/ Octavio Jones for NPR
At the Immaculée Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, people are treated for injuries suffered during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the city on Aug. 14.

Some of the injured patients are arriving only now from areas where the roads had been cut off. Others delayed coming because their wounds weren't life-threatening. A man being treated on a bench outside the ER has cuts on his arms that he thought would heal but now are infected.

I ask Dr. Antoine if there are enough antibiotics.

"How can I say," he hesitates. "We control the situation now. But if there's more, it would be better."

In the pediatric ward, a naked 6-year-old girl is having a gash that stretches the length of her shin cleaned and wrapped. A nurse on the unit, Fevrier Marie Yves Rose, says the girl is being prepped for surgery and has multiple injuries to her legs.

A woman holds her injured son at the hospital Wednesday.
/ Octavio Jones for NPR
A woman holds her injured son at the hospital Wednesday.

Several of the medical staff say that one of the big challenges is that even after they patch patients up, they're discharging them to sleep in the streets of a city that's in shambles.

At the Les Cayes airport, aid workers and relief supplies are arriving by air. A massive white helicopter from the U.N. World Food Programme discharges cargo and passengers in the grass at the end of the runway.

Aid agencies say they're trying to get aid to the quake zone as quickly as possible. Bruno Maes, the country representative for UNICEF in Haiti, says he understands people's impatience. But roads were blocked by the quake, a key highway is controlled by gangs - and then Tropical Storm Grace hit.

"I would say that in general the access is possible," Maes says. "But it's just a matter of time and it's difficult to reach everyone in one day."

Workers with UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross prepare to distribute relief supplies in Torbeck, Haiti.
/ Octavio Jones for NPR
Workers with UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross prepare to distribute relief supplies in Torbeck, Haiti.

Yesterday afternoon UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross distributed some of the supplies that they'd managed to get through that aid corridor. West of Les Cayes, out of the back of a big-box truck, aid workers passed out tarps, blankets, plastic water cans and buckets with sanitary supplies.

A pregnant woman in a bright red dress, Mira Marie Malia, was most grateful for the tarp. "Because that can help me have somewhere else to live at night, to sleep at night," she says, but then adds what she really needs is food.

Relief workers with UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross distribute supplies to people in Torbeck, Haiti.
/ Octavio Jones for NPR
Relief workers with UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross distribute supplies to people in Torbeck, Haiti.

The aid was only being given to people whom aid workers had visited earlier and deemed were in need. Residents who hadn't been given a green ticket weren't eligible to get the supplies.

An angry crowd of people without tickets quickly grew around the truck.
The aid workers tried to convince the crowd that more supplies would be coming soon.

Odize Bernadette, 42, standing off to the side, was incredibly frustrated.

A family walks home after receiving relief supplies from UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross.
/ Octavio Jones for NPR
A family walks home after receiving relief supplies from UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross.

"I don't have anything," she said. "My children and I, we sleep on the ground. We don't have food, we don't have water, everybody's house collapsed and we don't know what to do."

Bernadette says she would be thrilled to have any of the things they're giving away. But at least for now, she has to wait.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.