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A Clinic Rises, Offering Hope to Disabled Haitians

Little Blaurha Defils was only 17 months old when last year’s earthquake devastated Haiti, and changed the rest of her life. When rescuers found her beneath the rubble in her family’s crumbled Petionville home, she was trapped by one foot. The little girl was eventually rescued, but had to have her foot amputated. To walk, she will need rehabilitation therapy and a series of prosthetics for the rest of her life.

Thousands of other Haitians are coping with similar disabilities as a result of the earthquake, which destroyed large swathes of the capital and surrounding areas. But thanks to $1.8 million in financial support from the American Red Cross, disabled Haitians like Blaurha – who is currently receiving therapy at a temporary clinic – will have access to a state-of-the-art facility and professional care at an outpatient rehabilitation clinic under construction in Port-au-Prince. The center will be managed by Healing Hands for Haiti with support from the Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD), operated under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Unlike the cramped location of the temporary clinic, located on a noisy street downtown, the new clinic will be set on a two-acre campus in a tranquil, hillside location ringed with flowering trees. Engineers began plotting out the foundations this spring and the walls are going up now. The center, which will replace a smaller HHH center on the site that was destroyed in the earthquake, is being built to international standards. It is due to be operational early next year.

“We’re helping the newly injured, the disabled and vulnerable of Haiti,” said Al Ingersoll, country director for HHH. “The building will have capabilities for physical therapy and all the disciplines related to rehabilitation medicine, including prosthetics and orthotics.”

In addition to manufacturing artificial limbs – the goal is about make 200 prostheses per year – the center will have training rooms so HHH staff can work with their Haitian counterparts and, they hope, eventually transition the clinic to Haitian management. The group anticipates handling about 6,000 physical therapy visits a year (treating as many as 2,000 individual patients).

“I’m very thankful for the American Red Cross support, and hope to continue our dialogue as the walls go up,” said Mr Ingersoll.

To complement American Red Cross financing, the Norwegian Red Cross and Australian Red Cross are also providing support for the new facility through the SFD. HHH was founded in 1999, dedicated to bringing physical medicine and rehabilitation services and programs to Haiti. The SFD provides support for physical rehabilitation services in more than 30 low-income countries.