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Haiti Earthquake: Six Months Later

Aired July 17, 2010 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome to a very special edition of SGMD. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting to you from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

As you know, it's been six months since the devastating earthquake. And so many of you probably saw the images on television, read about the stories of the things that happened here, and as a result, you gave money. More than $1 billion raised around the world -- governments pledging much more than that.

Still, hospitals are shutting down in the city -- not building up, shutting down. And patients are still dying from lack of basic care, six months later. We're going to investigate what's happening here.

Also, actor Sean Penn, Academy Award-winning actor, he's been here for six months. And you can say what you want about actors in disaster zones. He's been running one of the largest camps here in Port-au-Prince for some time. I spent the day with him.

Let's get started.


GUPTA: It has been six months since a devastating earthquake that claimed and destroyed so many lives here in Port-au-Prince. We're back. We've been back here several times. Back again to see what if anything has changed.

And I can tell you, there have been some success stories. There's clean water available to so many more people now than just a few months ago. As a result, I believe, we've been spared over here the massive outbreaks of infectious disease that was expected in tent cities like this one behind me.

But, also, there are still some tragic stories of people dying because they simply can't get some of the basic care that they need. Hospitals, even ones open before the earthquake, are now shutting down.

So, what exactly is happening here? We tried to investigate. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): Best estimate, the quake displaced 1.5 million people -- injured or crippled 300,000.

In the United States, the care of this man, Mildred (ph), received would be considered ordinary.

(on camera): When did you realize that you were injured?

(voice-over): Here, Mildred is an extraordinary success story.

(on camera): The worst injuries that he had was actually to his leg. I don't know if you tell so far, but he's actually walking with a prosthetic here. This is what so many people here in Haiti have been wanting. They've been waiting for, because so many amputations were performed.

(voice-over): Mildred is a success here because he not only received immediate acute care, but because there are resources for his recovery and his follow-up, intermediate care. It's so important.

But here, it is way too rare.

It's about the money. There's never enough. Eight organizations tell us they are saving so much of it for the long term. But in the meantime, hospitals are dying, and so are patients.

(on camera): And this little girl has been left here to die. She had hydrocephalus, too much water on the brain, and the shunt to drain that fluid became infected. Now, there's nothing more they can do for her.

(voice-over): You see, she got the acute care but it's the same stupid story, six months later. She needed antibiotics that she couldn't get. She will die.

The money, one U.S.-based charity, Medishare, has spent nearly all of $7 million it raised from private donors. But if they don't get a larger share of the public donations by September, that's it. This hospital shuts down.

(on camera): Within a month and a half, you're saying the money runs out?


GUPTA: We were sitting here talking, the three of us, just a few months ago about this very issue. And said, you know, literally people were giving money, more than $1 billion they were giving all over the world. How does a place like this shut -- the only critical care hospital in the country -- how does it shut down if so much money was given?


We ask ourselves the same question. Where is the money?

GUPTA (voice-over): But medical needs will not miraculously go away any time soon, but remember this?

(on camera): They actually think there too many doctors.

(voice-over): Not long ago, compassion was overflowing here. For a short while, there were simply too many volunteers. They had come in from all over the world.

But now ...

(on camera): This is general hospital, one of the biggest trauma hospitals in Port-au-Prince. Just a few months ago, this place was very busy. And now, you can see there's hardly anything happening here.

The tables are still left, yes. There's hardly any resources, any equipment. There's no doctors. And as a result, no surgery is taking place.

And it's not just the public hospitals, but the private hospitals as well. There are many that say the health care in Haiti is as bad as it's ever been. Many hospitals simply shut down for business.

(voice-over): So where is the money?

(on camera): A lot of hospitals are starting to run out of money. Some hospitals had to shut down completely. General hospital, which is the largest public hospital in the area, it's sort of become a bit of a ghost town.

What do you say to that? I mean, how do you address some of those concerns?

MATT MAREK, AMERICAN RED CROSS, HAITI: You know, as everyone knows, the generosity of the American public toward the Red Cross, the American Red Cross, has been enormous, OK? And we've raised a large amount of money. We're also, you know, aware that, you know, other resources are out there, via the government and support the government as received, OK, to get into the hands of the general hospital. And we're flexible, you know, on what support our funds, you know, can actually get.

GUPTA: Back with Mildred, he wants to show me that he cannot only walk, but he can also run.

(on camera): You all right? That's one of the difficulties you just saw here, simply navigating the road. He was obviously running, but it's a very uneven surface.

(voice-over): The journey here is so difficult, but until September, at least, Mildred will get his intermediate care. Once left for dead, he's back on his feet dancing again.


GUPTA: So we have some real deadlines now. September 1st before that particular hospital shuts down if they don't get the funding that we talked about there.

Coming up: we've got Sean Penn. He's done something really remarkable here by just about anybody's definition, one of the largest camps here in Haiti, over 50,000 people. How did he do it? What's the process? We're going to get an inside look.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: We're back with the program, SGMD.

Like many people who were compelled to help in the aftermath of the earthquake, Sean Penn wanted to do something as well. He came down immediately after. I remember this. He's e-mailing me and I was telling him what I was seeing here. He showed up. And he's really never left.

As things stand now, more than a million and a half people are displaced. Many of them are living in makeshift camps. This is an example of a more permanent structure, but there are many that are indeed very temporary. He runs one of the largest ones.

Let's take a trip there.


SEAN PENN, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: There's been a lot of ups and downs. We could get hurricane level rains any time now. We've had extraordinarily heavy rains at times already.

GUPTA: When the Army Corps comes in, is it these -- these irrigation areas here?

PENN: It's channeling water.

GUPTA: That's the biggest thing.

PENN: This -- this was a river all by itself at that time. Then it would flood over, go right through the bottoms of tents and force, take a lot of silt, everything through, end of the tents, knock tents down. Same thing was happening down there.

We've got a big ditch down below that have a lot of blockage through it and torrents of black water going through it, with no lighting in the camp -- which we now have. Our generators have gone on just a little bit which help -- there's security, in particular, crime security.

GUPTA: It sounds like, in some part, it's designed to be a more permanent footprint.

PENN: The highest percentage of people, given the opportunity, will move from here into a planned camp. A planned camp gives them a tent, space around their tent. There's a kind of movement to a future there and a different kind of level of security there that you can never have in a spontaneous camp.

GUPTA: You definitely hear about domestic violence. You hear about -- I guess not unexpectedly but even mental health toll that living like this would take. Is that the biggest thing -- reason they would want to go to a more -- a different sort of camp?

PENN: Yes. And there's -- and then, you know, they have become and they have become increasingly aware of sanitation issues, potential disease. All you have to do is look around at the compression of it and how close the tents are to each other.

Still, there's got to be, you know, an awful lot of education involved in basic hygiene and all of that stuff. And so, we have our women's clinic up there which becomes a great place to do that. And then also, our schools, which is down below.

GUPTA: How is the Creole coming along?

PENN: Not too good. They say, hey you. And I say, hey you back. Hey you. Where are you going? Come up here?

GUPTA: That's a camera. That's a microphone. That's Papa Sean over there.

PENN: Yes. Yes.

GUPTA: How old is she?

Do you know? She's saying she's hungry? Universal sign, huh?

PENN: Yes, that's another big issue.

GUTPA: You look at this and pretty good night, pretty good weather tonight and people are going to actually enjoy themselves. What do -- what do you think?

PENN: Well, again, there is a kind of dynamic here that's family-oriented, responsible. As hour gets later, this is -- we're standing in a place where we had two machete attacks by gangs in the last week. We have several rapes per week in camp, perhaps more than that in terms of what's not reported. We try very hard to get -- to do outreach to find out. Increasingly, we're getting reporting.

We now have the government helped us when we requested to get a full-time, 24/7, PNH station, a police response for Haiti, station in camp. So, now, they are starting to trust that relationship. They're going to them on things and letting them come to our hospital where these things are being reported. But it's still going on.

And, so, again, that's why -- you know, the snapshot of the Haitians, their strength gets them punished because these people are all aware of the things that happen here. And it doesn't have to be, you know? This is not a way for people to live. And, you know, flimsy tarps with sticks underneath and mud floors.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: Now, that area houses not just a camp as you saw there but also a small hospital. So vitally important. We'll go there -- next.


GUPTA: So, you live in a tent city like this one. Now, they have access to clean water, pretty good at food distribution here as well. But what about medical care? What if something were to happen? Simply too hard to get people from here to any kind of medical hospital or clinic or anything.

So, how about creating a medical facility within the camp? It's exactly what Sean Penn's folks tried to do. They handled everything from delivering babies to head injuries.

Let's take a look.


GUPTA: I get these text messages from your e-mails from you, and I imagine you're driving around town crazy with some really sick person, child often, in the back of your car, trying to find something. I mean, first of all, how do they even -- what happens? You get a call saying, look, we've got a kid who's dying, please help us?

PENN: Yes, we've got that little -- I don't know if you saw the four-wheeler we've got that little mule. That functions as our ambulance for those who can't come up to our hospital by themselves. We have people down here that work with us through the night.

Our doctors give an original diagnosis. If it's something treatable in our hospital, it's a class 3 hospital, if we have the capacity to deal with it, then we'll deal with it there. But the more serious cases we have, to be transported constantly.

GUPTA: Can they find things elsewhere they can't find here? I mean, you would assume so, the class 3 hospital. Class 1 hospital is supposed to have everything. But you haven't been able to find, you know, basic antibiotics for ...

PENN: Yes. No, it's been a struggle. And as you know, it's been a struggle for some of the major hospitals, you know? And --

GUPTA: Still -- I mean, this is -- this is six months obviously now, and it just doesn't seem like things are that much better.

PENN: There's an incredible blood shortage here. Haitians don't tend to give blood. Getting blood here from the United States, I don't even know the entire process, but it's been very slow. I know the stockpile is extremely low -- so those kinds of things.

Immunization is still nowhere near an acceptable level throughout the country.

GUPTA: So, you might imagine, a lot of babies have been born in this camp. Let's see.

PENN: We usually have it posted.

Hey, do we have the baby number posted anywhere?


PENN: Where is that?

GUPTA: Where are we? A hundred and twenty-three?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hundred and twenty-three.

GUPTA: That says baby meter. The baby meter -- 123 babies. And do you know how many -- how many have been girls? How many girls or boys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no number quite yet. But most of them are girls.

GUPTA: Most of them are girls.


GUPTA: Is that unusual?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This baby is 9 months old.

GUPTA: Nine months old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has chronic hydrocephalus.

GUPTA: I mean, there are places here that are doing ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Medishare is going to be able to do him at the end of the month, here in August.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And not that I don't think he's important, but this other one is -- this Dr. Ariel is going to be back in country at the beginning of the week and talked about getting hemogram, pro time, and PTT on both of them.

GUPTA: Let me (INAUDIBLE) and they'll know this, but the -- this third ventricle is very big. And so, you know, the traditional thinking has been to put in a shunt. But I don't think that I would do that. I would actually do what's called a third ventriculostomy and just open that up, because then there's no foreign body in the brain.


GUPTA: Because -- I mean, then the child doesn't need follow-up. (END VIDEOTAPE)



GUPTA: Could you have imagined sitting here in this sort of control center, command center area, now six months after the earthquake? I mean, you came down. You were sending text messages. You wanted to come here, I know that. But did you envision this? That it was going to become what it's become?

PENN: No. But, you know, before I really -- that's still on its own odd surprising level that, you know, it wasn't something that I expected. Certainly I didn't expect the earthquake. But the key word is "could you have imagined." And you sit there every day and you say, you know what, what these people are going through, as soon as you think it's imaginable, you're surrendering.

This is -- this is -- this is a war that's got to be stopped basically. This is -- it's a war against poverty. It's a war against a lack of personal resolve and national resolve, both in Haiti and in the United States. The United States has got an obligation to its own young military who came here and did the most courageous, heroic work that I've ever had an opportunity to see.

GUPTA: All right. That really gets to you, huh?

PENN: Yes.

GUPTA: There have been earthquakes in many places around the world, bad ones in Pakistan just a few years ago. Why is Haiti important to Americans? Why should they care?

PENN: Nobody suffers like the poor and nobody's poorer anywhere near the United States like the Haitians. It's such an extreme. It's so within our reach.

And it -- it is geographically our number one poverty area responsibility, you know? We can reach here fast. We can get things from our country that we know that -- it's as simple as that.

We can do it here and we have to coordinate. We have to coordinate with the Haitian government. We have to, you know, develop a plan for the future with the Haitian government.

And this is -- and then if we do that and we get these people and give them the education that they never had -- and that's a huge part of this. It is a huge part of it related to health, it is a huge part of it related to the economy, it's a huge part of it related to the personal dignity of the people here and their own independence. And if we do that, then we will actually have some sharing of this country and this culture.

And one of the injections that the United States will get will be the most formidable strength of character, strength of resilience in any people that I've ever seen or that so many journalists who travel the world, so many aid workers who have been in so many situations. There's -- you know, let's say that the Lakers are the best team now, in basketball, and the Haitians are the most resilient people in the world and everybody's special. That's theirs. And we need it.

GUPTA: And when I left here, I dreamt about this place. I don't think my mind ever really left it even though my body left. How are you going to -- I mean, are you going to ever be able to really leave? I mean, this -- you've been really affected by this.

PENN: The things that you already knew in your head, you know kind of -- oh, when you spend time like this. You get a real sense of what the value is in a dream being able to be lived, like so much of what we have, so many of us have in the United States. And what it is to not know you deserve a dream at all -- and the responsibility of the former to share that with the latter.

GUPTA: You feel like you -- I mean, this is -- this is a fulfilling thing.

PENN: Yes.

GUPTA: I mean, selfishly, if you had -- if you had to assign an attribute, you could say, you know, it's -- you've grown in so many ways having been here.

PENN: You know, one can never accuse themselves of that. But, you know --

GUPTA: I'll say it for you.

PENN: Thanks.

But, you know, I will -- you know, my intention here is that our organization stays here, you know, until the Haitians tell us to get the hell out. And I'd like to think that won't happen and that we'll adapt in terms of our usefulness and what our organization does here.

But, right now, while I am 100 percent behind the government's position that -- Haitian government's position that it is time to move forward into a mindset of rebuilding this country, rebuilding it better, that it continues to be our obligation to face the emergency and the -- and in particular, in balance with this dream that they don't have the opportunity to ever have known. Before they can have that dream, they got to live to see it.


GUPTA: All right. Thanks, Sean.

When we come back, a few on-the-ground observations. Stay with us.


GUPTA: We are back with SGMD. And this tent city where so many people are still living six months after the earthquake, I want to show you something here. This is just the reality for a lot of people. There -- this is about as permanent a structure as permanent gets over here. You can see a lot of holes in there obviously. This is by no means going to protect people against the storms, against the impending hurricanes.

Look at what they do on top here. They throw some tarp on the top, some stones, some sticks. It seems like somewhat of a futile effort to try and protect themselves against what's coming next. But that's exactly what's happening here six months later.

Look, I planned on doing different stories after six months. I planned to do stories about hospitals that were building up, not shutting down; about camps that were turning into more permanent camps as opposed to temporary camps that are still existing.

But nobody knows how fast progress is going to occur here in Port-au-Prince. There's no question this is going to be one of the most difficult and complicated reconstruction projects that many people have ever seen.

We're going to stay on top of the story for sure. We'll be back certainly here in Port-au-Prince as well.

And if you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast, We're always going to get you the answers to your medical questions. You can find them right here on SGMD.

Thanks for watching. More news on CNN is next.