Student Relief Worker Describes First Day In Quake-Ravaged Haiti

By Alison Smith

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — We left Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, this morning. There was little sign of a mounting relief effort there — no large groups or supplies, only a single truck with bottled water.

We were cleared to land at Port-au-Prince airport solely because of our medical supplies. They tried to deny us but we told them that we had I.V. fluids and antibiotics. It was like a war zone on the runway, with planes and helicopters everywhere. The airport itself was badly damaged, and completely chaotic. It was dark, and the floors were covered with water.

We spent three hours at the airport just trying to find a ride. The crowd outside was a disorderly but somewhat controlled by Army soldiers.

Port-au-Prince was strangely calm in some sections, much as it seemed on my previous trips. In others, though, there are still people climbing onto the roofs looking for survivors and digging up bodies in graveyards. The roads are littered with dead bodies. Rubble is everywhere. There is very little electricity. We saw many tent cities with people staying in town squares. Everything smells like urine; the sanitation is terrible.

General Hospital, the largest remaining hospital in Port-au-Prince, was atrocious. People were lying everywhere, many already dead, many others near death. We tried to help who we could. We gave some pain medicines to people with broken limbs. I changed the dressing of foot wound on a pregnant woman. We found a boy with an infected leg and tried to make him more comfortable.

Doctors here say they desperately need medical professionals to perform amputations and set broken bones, so we are going to try to set-up clinic in one of the town squares tomorrow. We will be giving medicines: Antibiotics, pain relievers, I.V. fluids, tetanus shots and wound dressings. We’ve also heard about an orphanage that needs medical attention desperately and will try to go there as well.

It was after dark when we reached our camp for the night, Cafe du l’Europe in Petionville, a nicer area of Port-au-Prince that has also suffered considerable destruction.

My thoughts are all over the place, as this is a lot to take in. People here are very depressed, and as you can imagine, it’s a very precarious situation. Food and water are going to run out soon. There’s not enough aid coming in to meet the needs.

There are still aftershocks, so we are sleeping outside tonight as buildings aren’t safe. We can hear people singing Haitian songs right now, just trying to get by. It is moving and beautiful.

Alison Smith is a medical student at Tulane University, who will be posting frequent reports from Haiti to the MTV Newsroom blog this coming week.

Head here to learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see THINK mtv.