Elmira resident Marilyn McIlroy has returned from her most recent trip to Haiti, and says that despite enormous aid and help that has been sent to the country in the past year, the people of Haiti continue to suffer.
McIlroy – along with fellow residents Deb Paton and Marilyn Raymer – spent two weeks in the rural villages outside of the capital of Port-au-Prince administering medical care and holding clinics for the people who are still trying to put their lives back together following the devastating magnitude-seven earthquake that struck the impoverished Caribbean nation last January.
“We anticipated seeing more patients, especially for cholera, but we didn’t see too many,” said McIlroy.
“We saw some people who were still dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome, so we supplied some counselling and some medication to help (them) sleep.”
She also said that many of the rural areas were not directly affected by last year’s quake, but rather have suffered from the economic and social fallout of the devastation.
“Most of them were so rural and isolated that the earthquake didn’t impact them as much. It was something they heard about,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy, Paton, and Raymer were all in Port-au-Prince as a missionary group from Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada back on Jan. 12, 2010 when the earthquake initially struck, killing fellow nurse Yvonne Martin. On their most recent trip, the three women had the opportunity to reflect on the events of one year ago and on the life of their lost friend.
“For me, of course, it had been my fourth visit back so it was quite different for the other girls. I don’t want to speak for them but it was an impact for them, it definitely had an impact.”
They were in Port-au-Prince on the 11th of January for their personal remembrance and reflection, and actually stayed on the same grounds as the hotel that collapsed one year earlier. The following day they were in the rural countryside providing medical relief.
McIlroy also said that despite the outpouring of support and aid sent from countries such as Canada, the situation remains dire.
“People are still living in their massive tent cities in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas,” said McIlroy. “Maybe I saw a few more of the temporary dwellings up, but other than that, no.”
She did say, however, that the levels of cholera – first reported in October and which have claimed more than four thousand lives – has begun to subside, particularly in the rural areas.
McIlroy also plans to return to Haiti with EMCC once again in May to help build temporary housing specifically designed for Haiti. One home can be assembled by a four- or five-person crew in one day. They feature insulation that make them ideal for warm-climate countries, are maintenance-free, sanitary and termite resistant.