Honduras help returns home
By Lindsay Issac
When hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, Western responded with donations of money, food and clothing.
The six-day relief trip to Honduras made by Carolina Vidal, a master of epidemiology student at Western, Fabian Gorodzinsky, an assistant pediatric professor at the faculty of medicine and Vidal's husband Cam Kowalski, arrived back in London Thursday.
The hurricane hit Honduras Oct. 27 and eventually left over 10,000 people dead and 500,000 missing, Vidal said.
Vidal, who is originally from Honduras, led the medical professional team which mainly treated people with infectious diseases. "We saw hundreds of patients, many of whom had never seen a doctor before," she said.
The environment changed due to the hurricane, increasing the spread of disease, Vidal explained. "The water is not being circulated, mosquitos are everywhere and sewers are broken mixing all the portable water." She added once the team arrived in Honduras, the country had been without clean drinking water for 19 days.
The relief trip brought the country's health care needs to the attention of Vidal, who is putting together a report detailing long term plans for improvement. "There are gaps in the health care system," she said.
Gorodzinsky separated from Vidal and Kowalski in Honduras and with another team of volunteers provided assistance to people. "The conditions were significantly damaged, many areas were flooded," he said. "The hygiene was bad, there was no water and the people could not fight infection."
Gorodzinsky explained the country required help with its health care system before the hurricane hit and the disaster magnified the problems, increasing the spread of infectious disease. "The problems are more acute because of the hurricane," he said. "The people got the care they do not receive under normal circumstances because the hurricane brought the country attention."
Due to hurricane Mitch, the Honduras government implemented a 9 p.m. curfew for the safety of the people, Vidal said. "For instance, if anyone was in the streets after nine at night they were shot because of the massive crime and chaos."
Western's faculty of medicine and dentistry was also involved in hurricane relief efforts by raising money and donations within the staff, said Linda Taylor, an administrative secretary for the faculty.
Taylor helped to coordinate the relief effort by receiving donations and delivering them to the London police station. "I heard the plea for help from the police station over the radio and also saw articles on the internet," she said.
It was a collaborative effort, Taylor said. She added Chantal Gloor, chief of faculty operations in the dean's office sent out an internal email asking for donations. "Within 24 hours we raised over $735 that went to the Red Cross," Taylor said.