The earthquake in Haiti in 2010 was catastrophic to a country that was already struggling in numerous areas. I traveled to Haiti to work as part of a medical mission trip in November 2009. When we heard that the earthquake struck in January, we immediately thought, we should go help! We had just been there and had so many contacts. So 2 days after the earthquake struck, a small team of about 10 people headed to Haiti. We had miracle of miracle just getting there as well as getting back out. So, this topic is near and dear to me. We spent about 5 days on the ground providing medical care near Carrefour and Port au Prince which was close to the epicenter of the earthquake.

Primary prevention in Haiti in regards to healthcare is very, very limited. People live with chronic and acute illnesses for a long time without treatment. There is very limited medical care and it is expensive for the people who live there. Primary prevention would fall under the preimpact stage of disaster planning. In theory, if people were in better health prior to a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, they would recover better from injuries sustained in the disaster. Health Education would be one nursing intervention I would use with this population.

Secondary prevention is also quite limited in Haiti. Even more so after a disaster like an earthquake. For example, we had a patient with a dislocated hip and potential fracture of hip and/or femur. Without xray capability, we had to guess. This type of problem would fall under the impact stage. A nursing intervention would be Pain Management. We had limited options for pain control. We were literally working on a small side street. The hospital in Carrefour was badly damaged and we had no way to facilitate transport to another facility for this man. So, we gave him the strongest pain medicine we had which was tramadol and we tried to reduce his hip dislocation. We were not successful. His friends were carrying him, and we advised them where to try and go. I’m not sure if he ever made it. In subsequent days, as relief agencies got up and running, he may have been able to seek treatment. One big relief agency, MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders was on the ground in Haiti before the earthquake struck but were dealing with damaged hospitals and limited staff.

Tertiary care would fall under the post impact phase. There were many injuries that I personally witnessed that would have long term implications if survived at all. Many fractures and head injuries. And the delay in treatment and inadequate treatment perpetuated the need for long term care. A nursing intervention that I would utilize in this population would be Hope Instillation. The devastation of the earthquake was all around. Loss of life and of infrastructure was paralyzing. A people group with such limited resources to begin with were faced with such terrible loss.

There are actually quite a few agencies working in Haiti in a long term way. One of my favorites in MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders). They were in Haiti before the earthquake and are still working there today. A long term relationship yields the best results in my opinion.