January 25, 2010

Devastating Haitian earthquake puts Johns Hopkins in emergency mode

As soon as news broke last week of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Johns Hopkins faculty and staff switched into emergency mode, tracking the whereabouts there of any university affiliates and offering expertise where needed.

Four master’s degree students in the Bloomberg School of Public Health were working on a UNICEF project in the villages of Anse Rouge and Pont Sonde, both distant from Port-au-Prince, and were unharmed by the earthquake. As of press time on Friday, the students were in Port-au-Prince working with AMURT (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team) and were awaiting evacuation. They were originally scheduled to return to Baltimore this week.

Five locally hired staff members of the Center for Communication Programs in the School of Public Health are also safe. Jhpiego, a Johns Hopkins affiliate that helps create infrastructure for child and maternal health in developing nations, has six program staff in Haiti, including physicians and nurses. All have been located.

The most recent cadre of School of Nursing students working in Haiti left the country on Dec. 18; the next group was not scheduled to go there until Feb. 1.

SAIS is not aware of any students there on “official” SAIS trips or projects and has no current students who list Haiti as their permanent address or location of their emergency contacts.

A Web site has been created to bring together all information about Johns Hopkins and Haiti and will be updated as more news becomes available; it is located at http://webapps.jhu.edu/jhuniverse/featured/Haiti and can also be accessed from the university home page, www.jhu.edu. In addition to details on Johns Hopkins’ efforts, the site includes links to organizations that are on the ground providing emergency medical care and other humanitarian services, and which are in need of donations.

In an e-mail to friends of Johns Hopkins on Thursday, President Ronald J. Daniels said, “The people of Haiti have suffered a heart-wrenching catastrophe of enormous proportions. At Johns Hopkins, our thoughts, of course, are with all Haitians and particularly with members of our own community who have lost family and friends there.

“Johns Hopkins people are men and women not only of thought, but also of action,” he continued. “Many of us already have made generous donations to Haitian relief efforts and I encourage you to do everything you can to support the many charitable organizations already on the ground in Port-au-Prince or mobilizing to get there.”

Some Johns Hopkins doctors have been called up and are being deployed as part of U.S. Disaster Medical Assistance teams. A Jhpiego team will be deployed to Haiti to support its ongoing efforts there. Other units or individuals from Johns Hopkins Medicine and from the Bloomberg School of Public Health are standing by.

The Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response is actively assessing how best to respond, both immediately and in the long term. CEPAR is working with agencies that are responsible for a coordinated response. At this point, medical experts with experience and training in disasters and international health are most needed, and CEPAR’s disaster-response team, called the Go Team, has been alerted for potential response to an official request. Should resources other than those available on the team be needed, specific requests will be made across Johns Hopkins. Those interested in volunteering on the ground in Haiti should watch for a CEPAR update in the coming days.

“On behalf of the entire Johns Hopkins community, I thank everyone who is part of one of these relief teams,” Daniels said. “If you are called into action,” he said, “you will go with our thoughts and support.”

At this time, because of safety, logistical and other concerns, CEPAR is discouraging any Johns Hopkins faculty, staff or students from individually going to Haiti to assist with earthquake rescue and recovery.