Church on Sunday, and a baby named Israel

Reporter's Notebook: On the first Sunday after the earthquake struck, people in Port-Au-Prince donned church clothes.

January 18, 2010 20:24
2 minute read.
Haitians reach towards aid being dispensed from th

haitians reach for aid AP 311. (photo credit: AP)

On the first Sunday after the earthquake struck Haiti, people living on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince donned church clothes. The Caribbean nation is 80 percent Roman Catholic. Several kilometers from the heart of the city - where the devastation is the worst - Sunday meant church day.

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Not so in the capitol, where any loss of faith mirrors the physical destruction of churches, along with schools, hospitals and homes. In their place, desperation and lawlessness remain. A new kind of commerce has also sprung up, with people hawking $7 bottles of juice and $5 packs of cigarettes (expensive in this city).

Anyone with a car, of course, is quick to transport the journalists and aid workers that have descended in Port-Au-Prince. As I rode in one such car on Sunday, the Haitian driver and his friends said they drove to the Dominican Republic to buy gas and purchase food and water for their families. Ascending the hills of Port-Au-Prince, we passed a gas station where people clamored in line for petrol being sold at $10 a gallon.

But medicine and water are still the country's most pressing needs. On Sunday, armored trucks carried shipments of water, which is as precious as gold here. Outside a ruined health clinic, a doctor in a blue gown made do without a traditional operating table, suturing a gash on his patient's leg in the middle of a street lined with rubble from fallen homes.

The same scene played out elsewhere, including at the city's main hospitals. In Jimani, the border town between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the hospital was sending overflow patients to a nearby hotel. The head of the Good Sammaritan relief group, who was organizing the ancillary center, greeted a Jerusalem Post reporter with the word "Shalom." I asked if he knew of the IDF's field hospital - a fully functioning, operating hospital set up in an industrial park in Port-Au-Prince. He did not, be said, "Brothers, we need you."

The hospital itself is a place of order and humanity, marooned on an island of death and disaster. As an occasional helicopter flies overhead, patients line up outside the doors to be seen by doctors and nurses. Nearly two days after being here, the medical staff has established a fast-paced routine of treating patients and discharging them quickly to make room for the next.

With two operating rooms, a neonatal intensive care unit and X-ray machines, IDF doctors treated 100 patients in the first day. They performed three amputations, and treated a patient with a gunshot wound. On Saturday night, a 24-year-old woman was the first to give birth there. In this very Catholic country, she named her son Israel.

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