“Put out the child of Prague, it hasn’t stopped raining since I got here.” That was the first message from Galway woman Ailish O’Reilly, back to her family at home to let them know she had arrived safely at Les Cayes in Southern Haiti.
Her family have a good reason to be thinking of her – Les Cayes is along a peninsula that suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14.
By Elizabeth Garner and Jim Hynes
And the Woodford woman is based at an ophthalmology clinic, where the aftermath of this natural disaster are all too prevalent.
“We are all sleeping in tents on the hospital grounds. Some staff are sleeping in their cars since the earthquake,” she says.
“Down in the city, the residents close some roads at night and sleep out on the road where they feel safe. With the rain these past few days they have to find shelter somewhere but then they are too afraid to sleep.
“There is still heavy rainfall and alongside the high humidity it makes for damp and difficult living conditions. Most of the hospital staff have suffered serious damage to their homes or seen them completely destroyed,” she adds.
The earthquake destroyed many homes and businesses; to date, 2,189 deaths have been recorded with the numbers still rising.
There has been 12,168 or more injured and at least 650,000 people (more than the population of Belfast) in need of humanitarian assistance.
The civil defence are only now reaching remote villages cut off by a combination of landslides and damaged roads.
The devastation never gets easier to witness, but Ailish is at least experienced in crisis management.
In 2016, she was working in Haiti with Irish charity Haven when Hurricane Mathew hit, and the current crisis is one of many for a tiny country with a turbulent past.
Originally from Loughatorick near Woodford, Ailish first visited Haiti in 2009 with Haven – and after the 2010 earthquake, she and many other volunteers made a long-term commitment to engage with Haiti.
In 2012, this saw Ailish relocating there to work in community and economic development – which meant she was part of the emergency response project in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that almost completely decimated agriculture across the region.
Innumerable houses were severely damaged – including her own – and Ailish worked alongside the local community and government to distribute materials for the repair and rebuild of houses. Much of this material was bought through donations from Ireland.
Despite 6,500km between Haiti and Galway, Ailish is keen to point out the many similarities.
“In many ways Haiti reminds me of my community at home, the usual complexities of close-knit rural areas where everyone knows everyone,” she says.
“Young people leaving for work or if they are lucky to further their education. The older generation bridging the gap between cultural traditions and a modern society, wise enough to see that development is not always progress. And community is everything, just like in my home parish of Woodford.”
Ailish is currently based at an ophthalmology clinic in Les Cayes, tasked with re-opening the hospital to receive patients, restarting surgery and working with other health services to alleviate hospital overcrowding.
Institut Brenda Strafford has been in the region since 1982, with a mission to provide high quality, person-centred, professional Ophthalmology and Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services to the people in Haiti.
Ailish explains the present crisis.
“We are currently waiting on an engineer’s report to identify which parts of the buildings are safe to reopen. Until then we are using our external waiting room for all consultations and emergency surgery,” she says.
“No one wants to sleep indoors as there are aftershocks and everyone is very frightened.”
And the risks are ongoing – but she is inspired by the fortitude of others.
“Thankfully all the staff are safe, but they have all lost relatives and friends. It is a testament to their courage that they had emergency services working the day after the earthquake and have been working every day since. But then that courage is typical of Haiti.”
She is proud too of the fact that Ireland is also continuing its long support for Haiti. NPH-Ireland.org are equipped to provide essential services and provide a children’s clinic in the region.
Alongside these and other Haitian groups is Irish-based Haiti Orphanage Project ‘Espwa’ – which simply means hope. They ship containers of aid to Haiti, packing only what is asked for, to ensure their efforts are genuinely helping.
Response to an initial request for support has been so quick that Woodford Parish Development and the wider Woodford community organised a collection for Haiti, which tool place at the weekend.
People can support by making a donation to help pay for the shipping containers via www.4Haiti.ie.
Boil water notice issued for Barna area
A boil water notice has been issued for the Barna area for health protection purposes
The areas affected are Barna Village, Truskey West and Truskey East, Barr Aille, Fermoyle, Ballard and along the Connemara Coast Road as far as Furbo, and on the Barna/Galway Road as far as Silverstrand.
The notice has been put in place due to issues with disinfection of the water at Tonabruckey Reservoir.
The notice affects approximately 2,300 people supplied by the Barna section of the Galway City West Public Water Supply area.
Customers in the area served by Tonabrucky Reservoir will notice increased levels of chlorine in their water supply in the coming days as we work to resolve the issue.
Vulnerable customers who have registered with Irish Water will receive direct communication on this Boil Water Notice.
Irish water, the City Council and the HSE will monitor the supply and will lift the notice when it is safe to do so.
In line with HSE Covid-19 advice and the requirement for frequent hand washing, Irish Water advises that the water remains suitable for this purpose and boiling the water is not required.
Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised
Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.
A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.
Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.
Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.
Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.
He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .
Anger over ANC ‘snip’
ANGRY farmers hit out during last week’s Galway IFA at the Dept. of Agriculture over what they described as their ‘heavy handed tactics’ in docking BEAM penalties from ANC payments made last week.
Although Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, has apologised for the actions taken by his Department officials, delegates who attended last Thursday’s night county IFA meeting in the Claregalway Hotel, hit out at what happened.
In some cases, according to Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, farmers who had already paid back the BEAM penalty also had the money deducted from their ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments made last week.
Many farmers received ‘a shock in the post’ when their ANC payments were hit with the deductions of penalties from the BEAM scheme – earlier they had been warned of interest penalties if any balances weren’t repaid within 30 days.
At the core of the problem was the inclusion of a 5% stock numbers reduction in the BEAM scheme (Beef Exceptional Aid Measure) aimed at helping to compensate farmers for a drop-off in beef prices between September, 2018 and May, 2019.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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