Operation Blessing International: Cholera update: Teams battle mud, reach village with aid

Yesterday, we became acquainted with Eric Lotz of Operation Blessing International after seeing him on CNN News. See below for an email we wrote to his organization and their response.

TO: Operation Blessing International 
Attention: Eric Lotz or Bill Horan 

Dear Eric, 

I saw you on the news tonight speaking about clean drinking water in Haiti and would very much like to learn more about your work and other Haiti related issues including the outbreak of cholera.  

We may post your information on our blog, which was begun shorly after the earthquake.  

Thank you for attention, consideration and a prompt reply. 

Best wishes for success with your critically important work, 

Harriet Mohr

From: Operation Blessing <operation.blessing@ob.org>
To: haitiholocaust <haitiholocaust@aol.com>
Subject: Cholera update: Teams battle mud, reach village with aid
Date: Sat, Oct 23, 2010 10:23 am

 OBI’s Tony Cece is on the ground in Haiti helping to provide lifesaving clean water for families affected by the deadly cholera epidemic. His firsthand, eyewitness report captures the hope and desperation felt by these victims in their struggle to survive. Help victims now

DAUPHIN, Haiti — Today I found myself in Port-au-Prince preparing to board a flight home after a personal trip to the mountains of Seguin. I got the call to stay in Haiti and turned my focus toward the cholera outbreak in the Artibonite region. I quickly changed plans, met up with the rest of the Operation Blessing team, and was on my way to St. Marc. We made a pit stop at the St. Nicholas Hospital to meet up with Cate Oswald from Partners In Health to see what areas were severely affected, but not yet reached.

After a brief stop, we headed north to the region that David Darg and the Operation Blessing Haiti team had installed the water purification system yesterday. The system was still running from the night before and bringing much needed clean water that will stop this deadly infectious disease at its source. Our goal was to bring this lifesaving clean water to the unreached village of Dauphin.

As we drove, most of the villages looked like ghost towns because everyone was in search of medical care or clean water. Along the sides of the road, women and children lined up with buckets hoping that water trucks would come through and fill their buckets.

The drive was going pretty smoothly until we approached a large box truck that had slid off the road into the shoulder where it had buried itself up to its frame. As we proceeded to pass, we began to slide toward the truck until we could no longer drive without sliding the rear of our vehicle into the truck. A few Haitian men that were trying to figure out what to do with their truck started to shovel us out, but we just kept inching closer to the truck.

It was at this point that I jumped out and helped to hoe the mud in front of our tires to give us better traction on the higher ground and get us past the truck. After a 30 minute struggle, we were finally free and ready to continue on our mission to help the people of Dauphin.

We arrived at Robinet, the last village before Dauphin, and were told by a couple of lingering villagers that the road ahead was impassable and that no vehicles were going through. The road ahead was much worse that what we had just struggled through, but the three of us took a consensus and decided that the lives of the people in Dauphin were worth the attempt and proceeded through some of worst roads I have encountered.

The drive was treacherous and full of mud that steered the vehicle toward the shoulders of the road— which were so thick with mud that it would’ve buried the vehicle to its frame. Yet we pushed on. After 15 minutes of intense anxiety, we finally arrived in Dauphin.

Unlike many of the other villages we passed, it was full of people and they didn’t appear to be expecting any relief because they did not have any buckets to collect water. In the street, several men were assembling a coffin that was to be used for a teenager who had just passed away.

We pulled up to a group of around 10 people and began to ask them about their situation. They told us that they had not been able to receive any help because the roads were not passable. Yesterday we reported that upwards of 135 people had been confirmed dead because of the disease and in this village alone they were claiming that 17 people had died. The nearest clinic was an hour-and-fifteen-minute walk and many of the people we saw being carried on makeshift-stretchers already had a sheet draped over them.

We knew that we had already tested fate by making the drive once and weren’t even sure we would make it back to our box trucks, so we instructed the villagers to meet us in Robinet. The trip that took us 15 minutes to drive, would only take the villagers 25 minutes to walk. Once back at our box trucks full of supplies, we loaded up all 43 of the LifeSaver jerrycans that were on the truck.

The jerrycans filled the back of the car, were tied onto the luggage rack and spilled over the top of the car so that we could make sure no one would go without clean water. Once we got them as secure as possible, we headed back to Robinet to distribute them and train them how to properly use them to purify water.

It was very emotional to be showing villagers of both Dauphin and Robinet how to use the jerrycans while listening to the sound of hammers preparing yet another coffin. It is reassuring to know that these jerrycans will supply enough clean water to help all of the villagers in both communities, but it was also heartbreaking to be in the midst of this and see the ultimate effect of this deadly disease.

As we headed back to meet the rest of Operation Blessing team that was finishing up an installation of another water purification system along the river, we came across a woman carrying her baby girl. I was compelled to give them food that we had with us in the car. As I reached out of the car to hand her the food, I noticed that the young girl in her arms was stiff. The mother gave me a compassionate look as she received the food and pulled the lifeless body of her daughter back in close to her chest as if she was not willing to accept that her baby had passed away.

The next five minutes of the drive was spent reflecting on this woman who I don’t know, but whose face I will never forget. As I thought about the tragedy of losing a young child and remembered my two young boys that I have not seen in over a week, I was reminded of Rosebella and her son, Masitson that I had just met in Robineta.

She was a beaming young woman with an adorable child that had just received a LifeSaver jerrycan from Operation Blessing. I was reminded of the reason that I decided to remain away from my wife and children for a few more days – to help bring the hope of new life to these communities as they cope with their loss.

© 2010 Operation Blessing International. All rights reserved.




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