W5: A doctor's harrowing return to Haiti
Published Saturday, January 23, 2010 8:11PM EST
The images are heartbreaking. Corpses rotting in the streets. Orphaned children wandering through the rubble. Hungry souls with their arms outstretched for aid.
They are the images from Haiti. Images that have brought the world to tears.
On January 12, 2010, at 4:53 pm, Haiti was hit by an earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. The aftermath has been unimaginable, with an estimated death toll of 200,000 and an estimated two million homeless.
With news of the devastation, Canadians have dug deep into their pockets, donating money to the relief effort. There have been aid concerts here and in the United States, broadcast by all TV networks who combined their efforts to produce the programs.
Suddenly on the world's aid map -- the poorest country in the western hemisphere has long been in need. And dedicated Canadians have been helping the people of Haiti for long before the current crisis.
"They're often a misunderstood people, but I think a tremendous people," said Dr. John Yates, a doctor from Oakville, Ontario.
"And after time those who have lived and worked in this country, many, many will tell you it sort of gets under our skin" he added.
Yates is the Senior Project Officer for the non-governmental organization, International Child Care Canada (ICC).
Yates first traveled to Haiti in 1978. He had just finished an undergraduate degree when he and his wife, Sandy, went to Haiti for two years, to work as volunteers helping patients suffering from tuberculosis. The couple were trained to vaccinate TB patients and they travelled the country inoculating the ill. It was this experience that encouraged Yates to become a doctor.
ICC has been working in Haiti for more than 40 years and it is the largest NGO, or non-governmental organization in the country.
ICC runs Grace Children's Hospital, a 75-bed children's hospice that Yates helped build. It also manages 175 clinics that provide primary health care and vaccination programs. Along with the Haitian Ministry of Health it also runs the country's national TB program. In addition, ICC operates a maternal health program in the rural mountains of northern Haiti, which aims to reduce the high maternal mortality rate and to indentify and treat HIV/AIDS victims.
Dr. Yates was in Haiti on January 12, the day of the earthquake, but flew out of the country just two hours before the quake struck. Arriving back in Canada, he heard of the devastation and worried about his friends, staff, patients, the hospital and clinics -- and family. Two of Yates' sons were in Haiti.
As he learned of the devastation, Yates knew he had to return as soon as possible. Within days he was back in the country he considers his second homeland, this time joined by a W5 documentary team.
Yates told W5 it was heart wrenching to see such an altered picture of a country he knows so well. "It's quite a different thing to actually come and drive through the streets and see the incredible damage that's been done." Yates said as he passed through once familiar streets. "I've seen very, very difficult times in Haiti all of us would say we've never seen this before."
Of the 474 Haitian ICC staff, three are confirmed dead and 30 per cent of the staff is unaccounted for.
Before his return to Haiti, Yates was told that Grace Children's Hospital had only sustained minor structural damage. His worst fears came to pass when he saw firsthand that the building was no longer safe and that it would have to be razed and eventually rebuilt.
Dr. Yates recognized the road to recovery will be extensive. He's helped the Haitian people for over three decades and he doesn't plan on giving up on them now that they need him most.
"This catastrophe brings out a lot of what we've come to really respect about the Haitian people, their resilience, their belief that somehow we move forward despite all of the troubled statistics about poverty and a tattered history politically" he says. "These people are to be greatly respected for their resilience, their sense of not loosing hope despite incredible odds and I admire that" Dr. Yates says.
ICC in Haiti
International Child Care is a Christian health development organization that aims to change the conditions of poverty that impact health and well-being.
ICC has been working in Haiti for more than 40 years and it is the largest non-governmental organization in the country. It runs Grace Children's Hospital, a 75-bed children's hospice, in addition to 175 clinics that provide primary health care and vaccination programs.
With the assistance of the Haitian Ministry of Health, ICC runs the country's national tuberculosis program. In addition, ICC operates a maternal health program in the rural mountains of northern Haiti, which aims to reduce the high maternal mortality rate and to indentify and treat HIV/AIDS victims.
ICC has been operating in Haiti since 1967 and in the Dominican Republic since 1988. The NGO also has headquarters in Canada and the United States.
ICC Canada is supported by the Canadian government through the partnership branch of CIDA.