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Wrecked Haiti Still Reeling From Deadly Hurricane Matthew


More than 50,000 people have fled their homes in southern China because of Typhoon Haima. That's the storm that just pounded the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Haiti still reels two weeks after Hurricane Matthew ravaged parts of that country. The Category 4 storm pummeled Haiti's southern shore. It uprooted trees, destroyed bridges and homes. Hundreds of people died, all of this as Haiti struggles to rebuild after the earthquake that ripped through the island six years ago. Dr. Joanna Cherry is the chief medical officer of Hospital Bernard Mevs' Project Medishare in Port-au-Prince. We reached her on Skype.

Dr. Cherry, thanks for being with us.

JOANNA CHERRY: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: What are conditions like in the South, near as you can tell?

CHERRY: So our team have done extensive reviews of the South. We can tell you that when our teams arrived, they compared the area to that of a bomb blast. There's no leaves left on any trees. There's very little foliage still standing. There's no shade in any areas. Multiple houses had their roofs taken off during the storm. In the last two weeks, there has been some work on trying to get houses covered again. Unfortunately, in the last 48 hours, we've had some pretty severe weather in the area, so some of the efforts have been somewhat reversed by flooding and by just poor conditions.

SIMON: And this increases the risk of, say, tetanus and cholera?

CHERRY: Absolutely. And one of our major concerns has always been waterborne disease. So part of the operations that we've been involved in has been trying to supply clean water sources to people. When the rains start again, we end up with a massive increase in the waterborne diseases in each area. So this is a real concern for us right now.

SIMON: We've heard of a patient that your hospital took in, a boy who was under a tree when it fell. What can you tell us about him?

CHERRY: Yes. We had a 12-year-old boy admitted to us after the storm. He'd actually been trapped under a tree for four days. He - unfortunately, his spine was broken in the initial injury. He also had a broken leg. He ended up having a wound that was in his buttock, which was right through the muscle. We got him to Port-au-Prince, and we realized pretty quickly that he also had active tetanus. I'm very sorry to say that he died yesterday.

SIMON: Oh, my God. I didn't know. I'm so sorry.

CHERRY: So this really shouldn't be happening in 2016, an hour and a half from Miami. These are preventable diseases from a simple vaccination.

SIMON: I am so sorry. We didn't know. God bless. God bless him and you.

CHERRY: Thank you.

SIMON: Dr. Cherry, how do you do what needs to be done that's right in front of you and, at the same time, try and do all the work that has to be done to give Haiti a better future?

CHERRY: Well, I think nobody is under any illusion that we still haven't got a long way to go here. But I think we have to give a lot of credit to the organizations that are here all the time trying to improve food security, trying to improve health care and trying to improve the social situations of the Haitians every day. So we're still working away at our original projects. We've just had to call in for help to respond to the immediate emergency. And I have to say that people have been very responsive to this. We're very grateful that the general public is stepping up to support us as we adjust our mission here.

SIMON: Dr. Joanna Cherry is the chief medical officer of the Hospital Bernard Mevs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Thanks so much for being with us.

CHERRY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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