Posted by: calloftheandes | November 8, 2010

HCJB Global Medical Team in Haiti Rides Out Hurricane Tomas

Written by R. Kurtenbach & H. Goerzen
Photos: H. Schirmacher

Prayer with a patient.


As more than a million displaced Haitians endure Hurricane Tomas in tent cities, an HCJB Global Hands medical team hunkered down to ride out the storm after treating hundreds of patients in the last two weeks.

“We’re happy to be here at the Samaritan’s Purse base camp,” wrote Hermann Schirmacher in a message to co-workers in Ecuador on Nov 5. He and two medical professionals, Ian McFarland and Dr. Francisco Nina, had traveled to Haiti from Quito on Oct. 23. They linked up with another physician, Dr. Mark Nelson, who had come from the U.S.

“We believe the storm and rain will continue during the night, and then the weather should open up so we can fly [back to Ecuador] on Saturday (Nov 6) as planned,” Schirmacher said. “We’re all safe and sound, thanks to the Lord. We haven’t heard much about the full impact of the storm or how much damage it caused.”

McFarland added that the winds affected many of the 1.2 million people living in tent cities since the Jan. 12 quake. “Most of these are not designed for gale-force winds,” he said. “Actually, many of the tents are now just bits of canvass wrapped around four posts stuck in the ground.”

Dr. Francisco Nina with a Haitian patient.


The storm flooded earthquake-damaged remains of at least one Haitian town—a place where families had already lost homes earlier.

Nearly a week ago the storm killed at least 14 people as it slammed into St. Lucia in the eastern Caribbean on Oct. 31. Then it weakened to a tropical depression, later gaining strength to become a tropical storm before regaining hurricane force.

Schirmacher said the storm was described as a “cyclone” in Creole on Haitians’ cell phones—“Ayiti anba menas siklon Toma.” The text message carried a dire warning to those living near rivers. Tomas is packing heavy rains that could cause flooding and landslides.

“The tide was expect to rise [three feet] higher than normal, accompanied by destructive waves,” Schirmacher said, citing the U.S. National Hurricane Center, based in Miami. “Classes were canceled, and schools are being used as evacuation areas.”

Haiti’s civil protection department urged camp dwellers made homeless by the January 2010 earthquake to go to the homes of friends and family, and evacuation buses were sent to circulate at the camps. By Thursday evening it was apparent that the displaced Haitians were staying. Fearing theft of their possessions, they also wonder if access to the camps would be denied afterwards.

Treating patients at Jackson Beach past midday on Thursday, the physicians, nurse and engineer from HCJB Global Hands were then pulled out to go to the base camp of their host, Samaritan’s Purse. They have treated numerous cases of cholera, then watched as the outbreak abated somewhat. However, heavy rains associated with Tomas are prompting fears by health authorities that the water-borne disease could resurge.

McFarland said the situation in Haiti appear to be worsening as the team prepares to return to Haiti on Saturday. However, another team from Ecuador will return in December. “There has been an outbreak of cholera a few miles west of here,” he explained. “That means cholera is getting closer to Port-au-Prince, and with the rains, there is the potential that it would spread rapidly due to the absence of sanitation and clean drinking water. With the rains people do not have dry wood to burn in order to boil water for drinking and that will cause problems.”

When the hurricane appeared to be losing strength Friday afternoon, team members worked together to prepare a new tent with 24 beds to treat cholera patients at the gate of the Global Outreach base at Titanyen.

Hermann Schirmacher and Dr. Mark Nelson.

“This tent, damaged by the storm, was fixed and improved,” Schirmacher said. “All team members, including medical professionals, helped with sledge hammers and tools to get it ready. So it’s ready for any case. A team just left to go to a village nearby called Cabaret to attend to a cholera patient who is very ill.”

“Pray for the spiritual impact,” McFarland added. “Samaritan’s Purse has worked hard to have people go out with their teams to give spiritual advice and counsel. Pray that these men might grow in their own Christian lives. Also that there might be some organized discipleship for those who have made professions of faith.”

Sources: HCJB Global, Associated Press, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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Responses

  1. […] we were working in Haiti, Francisco expressed to me how glad he is to be able to be the ‘feet of those who bring good […]

  2. […] SP established the Cité Soleil rehydration center near Haiti’s capital to confront a cholera outbreak that began in late 2010. At that time HCJB Global Hands responded with two medical teams, one of which Schirmacher led in mid-December. […]


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