The United States has dispatched a massive transport ship and begun delivering field hospitals to Haiti after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern part of the island Saturday, crumbling homes, destroying roads and killing more than 2,000 people.
The USS Arlington, a transport dock ship, left Naval Station Norfolk, Va. on Tuesday and is scheduled to reach Haiti by Sunday, according to a spokesperson with U.S. Southern Command. The ship is carrying a fleet surgical team, 200 marines, two helicopters and a landing craft unit.
Haiti continued to reel Thursday from the earthquake, the worst since 2010, when a 7.0-magnitude quake claimed more than 250,000 likes mostly in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said the death toll from Saturday’s quake had risen to almost 2,200 with more than 12,000 injured. Hospitals in the hardest-hit areas have been largely incapacitated, increasing the desperate need for more medical care and assistance, Haitian officials said.
SOUTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-Haiti planned to deliver a field surgical hospital to the southern city of Les Cayes on Thursday. It will be operated by Samaritan’s Purse, a nongovernmental organization that provides spiritual and physical aid globally. On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said four field hospitals were expected to be set up this week.
Since Saturday, the U.S. military has deployed three Coast Guard helicopters that have assisted hundreds of people and transported nearly 7,000 pounds of medical supplies and three U.S. Coast Guard cutters to Haiti. The U.S. also provided eight military helicopters from Joint Task Force-Bravo in Honduras.
After the earthquake, members of Congress and Haitian American leaders have called on the Biden administration for more support, including extending the date for Haitians in the U.S. to qualify for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). But on Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said TPS was extended after last month’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and DHS has no plans for further extensions.
"We looked at the tragedy of the assassination that occurred a while ago and we did extend our originally designated date, but we are not looking at extending that date again," Mayorkas said at a news conference in Miami ahead of his meeting with Haitian American leaders.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said the Congressional Haitian Staff Association met Thursday to continue to assess legislative responses to present to Congress when it returns next week.
Several organizations in the Haitian diaspora have been mobilizing to provide aid, including the Haitian Alliance Nurses Association International, a nonprofit coalition of 11 Haitian American Nurses Association chapters.
HANA-I President Dr. Marie O. Etienne said the organization has been raising funds and collecting medical supplies, along with developing plans to safely deploy nurses to Haiti.
"We're actually involved with several organizations that are mobilizing," said Etienne, adding that the group has been working with other organizations and taking part in daily conference calls with Project Medishare, the nonprofit health care arm of University of Miami at the forefront of coordinating shipments of relief materials.
The group has been "ensuring that whatever care that is being provided that it is not only culturally relevant but it's appropriate and that we exercise that humility," Etienne said.
At least two HANA-I nurses have volunteered to conduct a needs assessment in the coming weeks while other members are already assisting in Haiti through health care organizations, such as Partners in Health.
"The needs assessment is critical; lodging, security, safety, where we're gonna put our nurses," said Etienne, who was part of the 2010 earthquake relief effort. "Know the norms, know the proper psychological aid that is being rendered to those individuals and making sure that you use linguistic interpreters. … [If] you just come here and do it the American way, the way you're used to, you can cause detriment."
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