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Red Cross Helps Support Haitians Disabled in January Quake

The January earthquake not only left thousands of newly disabled Haitians without legs and arms, it also completely destroyed one of the most important rehabilitation clinics in Haiti designed to provide long-term specialized care. Currently there are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 amputees in need of professional care. As part of its longer-term goal to try to address a wide range of health needs in Haiti, the American Red Cross is now helping to fund the reconstruction of this rehab clinic and its workshop and training facilities.

The American Red Cross will provide $1.8 million in financing for the clinic which will be managed by Healing Hands for Haiti International (HHHI) with support from the special fund for the displaced (SFD). The SFD is operated under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The new facility will include space for consultations and physiotherapy as well as a workshop for manufacturing artificial limbs and other mobility devices. Due to open at the end of 2011, it will also have training rooms for Healing Hands for Haiti International (HHHI) staff, so that they can provide rehabilitation services with an eye towards eventually transitioning the clinic to Haitian management.

"The American Red Cross is pleased to be funding the reconstruction of this important facility," said Ricardo Caivano, country director in Haiti for the American Red Cross. "We hope that this prosthetics clinic, through our collaboration with a group of outstanding partners, will help to meet the needs of an important and often forgotten part of the Haitian population."

20 year-old Evena Prince is among the Haitians in need of such specialist services. She had just returned home from school when the earthquake hit. “I was taking a nap when everything started to shake,” she explained while sitting on a plastic chair holding her prosthetic leg in makeshift facilities currently being run by HHHI and Handicap International. “I ran out of the house and a building fell on me.” She was rushed to the hospital, but the injuries to her leg were too severe, and doctors amputated the limb. “I never thought I would walk again,” she said, “but now that I have this leg I can do things that I couldn’t do when I had to walk with crutches.”

Since the January earthquake, HHHI staff and volunteers have been working alongside their counterparts from Handicap International in a temporary location in downtown Port-au-Prince, as well as in various hospitals and health centers.

"Even before the earthquake it was a challenge to help the huge number of disabled people living in Haiti,” said Eric Doubt, executive director of HHHI. “The disaster added thousands of newly handicapped patients at the same time our medical facilities, prosthetic clinic and workshop were completely devastated.”

To complement American Red Cross financing, the Norwegian Red Cross, through the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD), will provide material, technical and educational support for the new facility.

HHHI 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.