Monday, November 22, 2010

USA Today article

This is a succinct article from USA News:

The need for good leadership to make non-glamorous political decisions is key.   I found this to be a powerful reminder of how much prevention saves, not only in terms of $$ but human lives:

Installing permanent systems is less costly than delivering emergency water, Schindall says. A $5 million water system that Oxfam built recently in Cap-Haitien serves 100,000 people and will last decades, Schindall says. In contrast, Oxfam has spent $30 million in nine months providing emergency water from tanker trucks and water bladders to 316,000 people, she says.

"Putting in the most basic infrastructure is what will keep people safe in Haiti," she says.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Fwd: Hydrography of Pestel Map

Hi all,

I thought I would share with you this new project that I'm undertaking with a 3rd year medical student (Novneet Sahu) to begin to map out crucial data for Pestel.

This not only looks neat, but in my mind it's really amazing.  Just on this little map alone you can see
1.  the 6 sections of Pestel outlined.   The ONLY other place I've seen the 6 sections has been a hand-drawn map on the wall of Dr. Seneque's office.   And using the software we can find the exact GPS coordinates for the boundaries.   
2.  You can see where the roads in Pestel go (dotted lines).  
3.  You can see small streams.  This is entirely new information.   Novneet found these geographically-accurate maps on the internet that were made to work with this particular software.

Now, this is what we'll do:
We are having someone in Pestel send us (by email) the list of village names AND their GPS coordinates.   That means for the first time (ever?) we will be able to exactly locate the villages throughout Pestel.   Remember, with the Child Health Program we found about a 100 villages that were not on the official rolls.

Once we place the villages on this map, we can then 'attach' all kinds of data to it.   Take the anemia testing for example.   If we tested 20 kids in Village A for anemia and 'attach' those 20 results to Village A....we can then color code ALL the villages based on severity of anemia.   We can see instantaneously on this map which villages have the worst levels of anemia....

Same with malnutrition...

Same with educational opportunities...

Same with rates of childhood fever...

And so on!!!

This will be a powerful tool to help in planning, coordination, and also in promoting the work that is being done and needs to be done.


I'm pretty psyched

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Novneet Sahu <>
Date: Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 3:42 PM
Subject: Hydrography of Pestel Map
To: Ben Fredrick <>

Haiti Blog

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cholera update

Cholera has unfortunately 'entered' Port-au-Prince.

A cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 600 people in Haiti has gained a foothold in in earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince and is expected to spread widely and quickly in the sprawling city of 3 million people, health authorities said on Tuesday.

The article also cites that about 9000 have been infected so far.  That will be a low estimate because no one knows for sure the true number.  Not all affected individuals will seek care, for example.

I also saw this really shocking video of the garbage build-up in PAP.  Prior to the earthquake there were a number of large green dumpsters around PAP.  The city was actually looking more and more cleaned up.   Then the earthquake...and now this (and cholera)   

Finally, this is a short account of how hard it is to be a mother in this setting:

A Haitian mother struggles to provide her family with safe water

Here's  a snippet:

Poverty worsens situation

"I never treated the water," she says. "But at the hospital they told me to treat with chlorine before using it. I'm really scared. My young son was sick with cholera. This could have happened to my other children as well."

In a country where more than 50 per cent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, however, money for soap or fuel to boil water is not always an option for the majority of the population.

Ms. Merceda, for one, could not afford to regularly buy chlorine tablets to treat the water she and her children drink. She says that if it comes to deciding whether to have food on the table or to have safe drinking water, food would take priority.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2298/Dormino
A girl collects water from the Artibonite River in Grand Dessaline, a town in Artibonite Department, Haiti. The river is believed to be contaminated with cholera.

Regular supplies of chlorine tablets to purify water are not available in community markets. As part of its cholera response activities, UNICEF has been facilitating the distribution of chlorine tablets, also known as Aquatabs. To date, UNICEF has provided almost 1 million tablets, each capable of treating five litres of water, to communities in cholera-affected areas of Haiti. Another 100 million have been ordered.

Aware of the danger

Celeste Jameson, a neighbour of the family, says the option of boiling water to make it safe is also not always available.

"Most of the people in this neighbourhood don't have the money for charcoal," he says. "And if they have it, they will use it to cook food and not to boil water."

Having safe drinking water is made even more difficult in Ms. Merceda's household, because the family does not have access to a sanitary toilet. Like their neighbours, the family relieves themselves in a small local stream, the same place they use to wash themselves.

"It's very hard for me," she says. "My husband is a farmer. He doesn't earn much money and I don't have a job. I do tell my children to wash their hands after going to the toilet. But I can't control them all the time. Soap is expensive, too."

Still, Ms. Merceda is aware of the danger posed by unclean water. She says she will try to use chlorine tablets to keep the water safe or at least boil the water before using it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pestel and the hurricane

Hello everyone,

For those who are relatively new to these emails, we welcome you and want you to know that while I have sent out requests at various times for specific funding opportunities, I don't think I've ever gone so far as to put out the appeal I am about to make.

The lives of the Haitian people in Pestel were thankfully spared from Hurricane Tomas, as you know.  However, early reports about the agricultural devastation up in the mountains are being confirmed.  I read a disaster report today.  In the report helicopters flew across the southern aspect of Haiti.  Only four areas were cited as suffering substantial damage and Pestel was one of those four.  Fruit trees have been ruined, the land has been torn up in places, and many farmers/peasants lost livestock.   Those who live day-to-day will undoubtedly struggle in the upcoming days.

We know Pestel.  We have followed along from a far, and some of us have walked the mountains and into the villages of Pestel.  This is our time to act--it is a call to action.  We will raise the flag to make sure that Pestel's plight is noticed, and we will contribute to helping them in their time of considerable need.

The situation was difficult prior to the hurricane, a poverty-laden land that had to somehow absorb the influx of families after the earthquake.  You've seen in the videos how people have taken in their siblings with children.  

I would ask that, despite our tendency, we might be sensitized to the needs during this specific time.

This is an email I just received from Dr. Seneque.  He is the only Haitian physician who lives and works among the people of Pestel.  
He is responding to my email from earlier today:

            I'am very glad to see, how you carry Pestel in your heart. This site was hit hard as you said, during the storm. Some localities, like 5th, 4th,3th sections have been damaged badly. The peasants loosed everything( plantations and all). So, we can feel the food emergency, coming up. If you can do something, this is the real moment to help. We can contact the mayor and many churches to see how to do it.

As I consider the situation, one disaster was averted as the hurricane diminished and was moved to the west.  That was clear evidence of God's hands over the storm.  Now I make this appeal as a prayer that God's hands would move in the hearts of His people to avert another crisis:  that of starvation and suffering.

I do not want to send any sense of guilt or manipulation in this email.  Rather, I see it as my responsibility to act on their behalf, and this is a specific moment of very great need.    

I do not have expertise to 'manage' a disaster, so I will seek advice.  Please let me know if you have interest in helping somehow with this effort.

We need people to pray that organizations capable of providing food, of helping to replace livestock and of rebuilding the farmers' lives would respond to the needs of the people in Pestel.    

Here is an opportunity to give financially.  You can give through Slate Hill Mennonite Church.  You can give online:
(Scroll down along the right side:  Donate button)

I have asked Dr. Seneque to learn about the needs in the mountains.  I will forward that to you once I learn.

Are any willing to contact organizations to see if the organization would consider working in Pestel?
Heiffer International
World Vision
Feed the Children
Mennonite Central Committee

All of those are working in Haiti already. The possess expertise to help the villages regain their baseline and move well beyond it.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two pieces of news

I had the pleasure of videoconferencing with the VI board this morning, and learned that they have accepted my proposal for 2011!!  This is wonderful news, and a real boost as we end this year.  We are currently raising funds through calendar sales.

The strategy that seems to make sense to me (and I'd like your feedback) is to use the knowledge gained from 2010 to raise funds to cover the costs of the Child Health Campaigns.   We know that it costs $3 per child per year.  That's how much it cost this year.   The more funds that can be raised (outside of VI's funding) to support the Child Health Campaigns will allow funds from VI to be used to advance the health effort for kids in Pestel.  We would be able to start an anemia treatment initiative (piloted on the island, then more widespread throughout Pestel), a malnutrition initiative, and lay the groundwork for immunizations.   

Secondly, I received the following email from Sister Fidelis.  This is hard for me to read.  If you have ideas, please let me know.  Ben

Dear family, friends and Sisters,
     First I want to thank all of you for your prayers and good wishes as Hurricane Tomas approached and waned.
     Unfortunately, I need to make some corrections to earlier sunnier predictions of our situation here. For two days I could not reach our people up in the mountains. We are in the lower, coastal town of Pestel right now and have been through the duration of the storm. This morning people came down the mountains to the market. And then I heard plenty.
     Many people lost sheets of corrugated tin from their roofs. Many trees came down killing many animals (goats, pigs, chickens, and even cows) and damaging a good number of houses. Their crops were just devastated, literally flattened from the high winds. Plaintain trees, which have very shallow roots, were all uprooted, but also vines like yams and beans were snapped leaving people without the food necessary to feed their families. Luckily for us personally, our house and new clinic were unaffected. However, the new school which was built next to our clinic had its entire roof blown off. I hear that the higher up the mountain people are, the greater the damage. This is the worst storm damage we have had here since I came to Haiti nine years ago. Sister Jo, Katie Large and I are returning home tomorrow to pray and commiserate with our friends and neighbors up the mountain.
     There was not a lot of loss of life in Haiti with this storm, however life around here will be much harder with this new catastrophe. So please keep us in your prayers. And if possible, send a donation to Development Office  c/o Sr. Carol Ann Grace   6832 Convent Blvd. Sylvania, Ohio  43560. Checks should be made out to Sisters of St. Francis and Hurricane Relief in the memo.
     Much love to each of you, greetings from Jo and Katie too, Fidelis

Haiti Blog

Friday, November 5, 2010

Word from Pestel

I've heard from Anderson (in Port-au-Prince) as well as Sister Fidelis (in Pestel).  All are doing well.

This is the report from Sister Fidelis in Pestel:

A lot of rain and wind last night.  Not much damage anywhere except some damage to trees.  "We've fared very well."  It was most severe early this morning.  The weather was very unusual and there was a lot of wind, shifting back and forth.   

Two people died when trying to cross a flooded road far up in the mountains.  Some homes were destroyed in a nearby area.  In Jeremie there was no structural damage to the Haitian Health Foundation buildings.   

They had the most gorgeous sunset--dark blue and magenta.  She asked me to thank you for your prayers.

We could not have hoped for a better outcome to our prayers!!!  For me this has been an incredibly faith-fortifying experience.  I have really wrestled with this one.   
The hurricane diminished in power and moved out to the west between Haiti and Cuba.  It appears to have spared PAP and the tent villages.  And it has spared the people in Pestel, for whom I have a special heart.

The message that I am to tell about is this:  God is good, great, mighty, and merciful.
At times we see these different aspects of God more clearly.  

I pray that through my emails, my talks, that God would be known today among us and among the people of Pestel as being Mighty, as He has shown Himself in this circumstance with a hurricane.  
He has been compassionate, acting mercifully toward Haiti 
We can affirm that God is good...even amidst a hurricane we can state this truth.  Even when things look very bad indeed.
Let Him be known among us as a Great God who is mighty to save, merciful to the weak and poor, and good all the time.

Please pray for Anderson whose anxiety was worsened through these circumstances.  He feels loved and cared for, but he has had a difficult time, having lived through these hard circumstances.


Thursday, November 4, 2010


Tomas continues to change.   Currently it is a Tropical Storm, but picking up in intensity.
By Friday AM they are predicting that it will regain the strength of a hurricane.  
Its path has fortunately angled to the west of Haiti (as opposed to some predictions leading it directly over PAP).  

(the "S" = Tropical Storm;  "H" = Hurricane)

I spoke with Sister Fidelis last evening.  She is in Pestel down by the water.  She and the other leadership are aware of the impending storm.   

Even though the hurricane appears to make land far out to the southwest, that is exactly where Pestel is.  

The hurricane HAD potential to be a Category 3.  It HAD potential to go directly over PAP.  I've been watching it closely for this past week, and I've been amazed at how it has shifted to its current trajectory.  

How do we pray about a hurricane?   Several of us have been talking about this.  One thing I learned through prayer is that God is able to do far more than we ask or imagine.  I had no idea in my head that this hurricane could potentially have dissolved in the ocean south of Haiti, but that is exactly what is started to do!   
We don't want it to hit Haiti and  not any other people as well.  

What I know at this point is that it had potential to be VERY VERY bad.  And Haiti appears to have been spared that level of destruction.

If you have a Haiti calendar, consider praying for the people in the calendar.  Those are folks from Pestel.  If you would like to be reminded of others who live in Pestel, here are a series of photos:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Haiti trip cancellation

Hi all,

Two important things to pass along

First, we had to cancel our trip to Haiti.   Despite re-arranging and trying to work out the details, it became very clear today that the doors had closed for us.  Obviously this is disappointing.  But we all feel that it is the right thing to do at this point.  My traveling companions have been fantastic through this process, very flexible and willing to go-with-the-flow.  
We were hopeful that the Hurricane would miss Haiti.  Or that we could make it out to Pestel (and bunker down) when it hit.  
Surprisingly, the hurricane was downgraded to a Tropical Storm status, and then just this morning was downgraded further to a Tropical Depression.  Over the past 48 hours there was a very real possibility of Hurricane Tomas dissipating almost completely!   Which is, frankly, an incredible possibility that didn't even occur to me to pray for!   And this could still happen.   However, around noon today it was upgraded again to a Tropical Storm.  And it looks to be arriving over Pestel around 8am on Friday, just when we'd be taking off from PAP.   Long-story-short:  we were grounded by our flight organization, and since they were filled up on Friday, Saturday and Monday....there was no opportunity to get out of PAP.  Again, this all came about within the past couple of hours.

So we will be looking at dates in Jan/Feb (maybe March).  

Second, I had a FANTASTIC meeting this morning with a group called Kingdom Builders.  What an encouragement.  These are generally business-minded Christians who meet periodically to discuss ways to integrate their beliefs into their work, develop ideas, etc.   I had the fortune of being invited by Stephen Sands.  There is a lot I could say about this time.  In short, a number of individuals provided excellent feedback and suggestions for me.  One guy wants to provide more opportunities for me to do my talk.  One guy wants to help put together a 3 minute video (his business makes commercials).  One guy is going to do some networking for me, etc etc.  These are just some of the examples.   There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm.   And this is a gift from God.

Thank you for your prayers for wisdom.  

Please continue to pray for Haiti.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hurricane Tomas?

At this point it's unclear whether we'll be going to Haiti this Thursday or not.  A tropical storm, Tomas, seems to be angling toward Haiti.  

Importantly, it may make landfall on Friday the day we're supposed to travel from PAP to Pestel.  Also, and more importantly, it is likely to make landfall over Pestel.  

But it's not clear what is going to happen.   I'm seeing reports that it is weakening and may not make hurricane strength.  Also, the prediction this morning was that it would make landfall on Friday at 6am.  Now the prediction is Friday at 2pm.  

My hope is that it weakens further and slows down.   My prayer is that it just doesn't even hit Haiti.  As you know, they don't need a hurricane at this point.