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U.S. health workers recall their time in Haiti

January 15, 2010 | 11:07 am

Haiti The many healthcare professionals and humanitarian workers who spend time in Haiti have been hit hard, emotionally, by the earthquake. Ulrick Gaillard, executive director of the Batey Relief Alliance, a nonprofit group that provides assistance in Haiti, had left the country Monday, 24 hours before the quake, after a productive meeting with the country's minister of health. The Batey Relief Alliance received grant money recently from the U.S. Agency for International Development to build a medical clinic and provide services to Haitians who lived on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and who often try to cross the border to seek healthcare. Ulrick and Haiti's minister of health signed an agreement to move the project forward.

Now Haiti faces new demands, Ulrick said.

"The country was living under sub-basic conditions before the earthquake," he said. "There will be no access to clean water, no sanitation, no public morgues, no healthcare, no medicine. It will be a catastrophic situation."

The dire health status of Haitians was detailed today in a story in the Los Angeles Times.

The earthquake brought Dr. Christina Catlett, a doctor at Johns Hopkins, to tears. Catlett, associate director for health preparedness at the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, had been to Haiti several times on medical relief missions.

After her first trip to Haiti, Catlett said, she felt an urgent need to return as soon as possible -- so great were the needs of the people.

"After the first mission I did there I think I was in shock," she recalled Thursday. "I've been carrying a piece of Haiti around in my heart since I went there in 2005. The people are amazing. Big hearts. Very resilient. Even though they are so suppressed, they still welcome you in and would give you the shirts off their backs."

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press