Update from Haiti—Checking in on HELP

Randy Roberson is In Haiti today.

We’ve mentioned Randy and his organization, HELP (Humanitarian Emergency Logistics & Preparedness), several times in the last couple weeks.  Well, I spoke to him yesterday while he was in a hotel on the Haitian border in the Dominican Republic.  I recorded some of the interview and we’ll post some video here once we’ve had a chance to edit it.  In the meantime, let me tell you about their efforts and some of their needs.


Randy said they were going to pick up a few tons of rice and water, adding it to what he and his group had brought overseas, before crossing into Haiti.  He’s got a three man team on the ground there.  They’re coordinating with the larger effort through some of the tools likely worked on and discussed at CrisisCommons.

He’s also working to bring in a 20 foot “container” clinic.  That’s a clinic made from a shipping container to make it easy to move from relief area to relief area.  They would like to fly it in to provide another clinic more quickly, but due to budget constraints they will likely need it shipped to the coast, then transported by boat the rest of the way.  Randy has two surgical teams willing to come in and work through that clinic.

They currently have more ties to doctors in the states than they will likely have the ability to utilize.  There are groups monitoring beds at ICUs, doctors in Chicago, and doctors in Arizona.  However, HELP’s cost for their satellite link is $16.55 per minute, restricting HELP’s ability to do telemedicine for Haitian quake survivors.  The current budget only allows them about two hours of linkup time per day while the demand (and available help) requires closer to 10 or 12 hours per day.   They can mitigate this somewhat because some survivor issues can be handled without a live doctor in the US seeing them in real time.  Randy referred to “store and forward” techniques:  For many survivor/patients, aid workers can take notes and pictures, attach them to emails, then wait for the medical advice to come back the next time HELP is able to go online.

(I can’t neglect telling you about the few thousand dollars-worth of extra solar power supplies needed to power all the equipment in their operation.)

They are utilizing tools by InSTEDD (Innovative Support To Emergencies Diseases and Disasters—a humanitarian group created by Google) and Ushahidi, which provides interactive maps for various distressed areas around the world.  People are able to text to the Haiti map messages like, “Corner of X and Y.  Need help,” or, “Looting on this street.”  This map has been lauded as one of the most important in coordinating aid efforts.

If you’re able, please donate something to help HELP out.  Go to their website and make a donation.  We have also done an interview just today with a second group in the Dominican Republic right now (GATR), and we’ll post about that, along with some screenshots and video from both interviews.  Randy has promised a couple minutes of that precious satellite time in order to help spread the word.  These two organizations are continuing in the aftermath at a time when the news organizations are beginning to pack up.  Check back in and we’ll continue to share their stories.

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