Toronto woman hopes her travelling medical clinic will save lives in Haiti

When Keteline Pierre heard that Hurricane Matthew was heading for Haiti, she braced for impact.

“No, no, no, not again,” Pierre said to herself, the devastation of the 2010 earthquake that left a staggering 230,000 dead, still fresh in her mind. “Mother nature, Haitians cannot take anymore.”

Pierre was in Haiti after the earthquake. It’s what inspired the Toronto woman to found Jericho Mobile Clinic, a team of some 17 travelling Haitian doctors and healthcare workers that’s spent the last six years working in the country’s most rural communities to make medical care accessible to families far away from the capital.

Now, six years after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, she’s once again appealing to her fellow Canadians to help.

“When you travel in Haiti you realize far away in the villages, the soil is fertile.” Pierre told CBC News. “When the villages become strong then of course the capital will be strong.”

In the aftermath of the hurricane, doctors on the ground have been sending her play-by-play accounts of the devastation left behind.

‘There is nothing left’

“In one case I saw a man crying lifting his hands because his mango trees, all of them were on the ground. He was trying to show his son everything is gone. There is nothing left.”

Les Cayes

A photo sent to Pierre by one of her team members, Dr. Jackson Marcelin, who surveyed the village of Les Cayes with the Jericho team this week. (Submitted by Keteline Pierre)

But for the billions of dollars that went into rebuilding Haiti after the ground shook, Pierre says the country doesn’t have much to show for it. And with the hurricane’s fatalities near 900 already, she worries about the lasting toll left behind in Matthew’s wake.

“Why don’t I see good hospitals? Why don’t I see good schools? Why don’t I see all the roads done?” says Pierre, skeptical about whether the $ 222 million raised by Canadians after the earthquake were put to the best use.

Her comments echo a damning 2015 report on the American Red Cross’s efforts in Haiti that raised questions about why vibrant new communities planned after the earthquake hadn’t yet materialized.

‘Give to an organization you trust’

The Canadian government has allocated $ 3 million to the Caribbean country in initial humanitarian funding for Haiti and other countries affected by the hurricane. It’s also sent an assessment team to determine what else Haiti might need and is directly contributing to non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross and others.

Les Cayes

What’s left of a home in Les Cayes, captured by Dr. Jackson Marcelin, who surveyed the damage in the village with the Jericho team this week. (Submitted by Keteline Pierre)

Spokesperson Myrian Marotte says the Canadian Red Cross encourages transparency.

“We always say that before giving to any organization, ask questions. Give to an organization you trust.”

Pierre hopes hers will be one of them.

Impact less obvious but no less devastating

It’s photos like those her team are sending her that Pierre says show that while the havoc wrought by Matthew may not have been as obvious as the earthquake in 2010, it is no less devastating for Haitians.

“At least before they had mangoes, they had avocados, they had coconuts. What do they have now?”

Among her biggest fears now, that generations of Haitian families will have been uprooted with the fruit trees. Still, she remains hopeful.

“The people, they want to work,” said Pierre. “All they want is to cultivate, and that is beautiful.”

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