BY JAMES TWOMEY
A plumber has been flown 4,500 miles to a disaster-struck country in the midst of a political crisis to help fix the water supplies at a hospital.
George Davenport, a plumber from Lewisham, has been flown to Haiti – where it is feared a humanitarian crisis may soon develop – to help Bromley-based charity Hope Health Action.
Mr Davenport said: “We were certainly apprehensive about going into Haiti during a troubled time, especially as we hear of people leaving, but consider that the need outweighs the risk.
There are newborn babies that still have the right to life in a troubled time, not forgetting there will certainly be casualties from the protests.
“If the Hope Health Action hospital wasn’t here, countless thousands of Haitians would have suffered – or worse, died but for a helping hand.
I’m just one of a team that comes back because there’s a need.
“I realise that right now is a very troubled time in Haiti, which makes it less safe, but the water purification units I installed last year needed repairing at a crucial time of a drinking water shortage, and today we have been able to install the first incinerator which will greatly improve the healthiness of the site, will undoubtedly save more lives so how can I not come?”
Hope Health Action co-founded a hospital in northern Haiti which has since become one of the leading facilities in the country.
With more than 100 beds the hospital supports more than 20,000 patients a year, employing 280 local Haitian staff.
Mr Davenport’s work has focused on fixing the water purification and solar power systems in the hospital so it can run with the fuel shortages the country is experiencing.
The charity says that inflation has impacted costs of food and fuel, the Haitian currency has plummeted against the US dollar and the national budget deficit is at a record high. There have also been strong allegations regarding government corruption which has fuelled the population’s anger.
Most cities have been shut down due to road blocks and demonstrations, with schools, businesses and public services also closed.
Hope Health Action chief executive Carwyn Hill said: “This has been one of the hardest weeks for us as a charity since 2010, when the country was hit with a devastating earthquake and a subsequent cholera epidemic.
“Our local staff have been working overtime, doing long shifts over days, with limited fuel and oxygen and reduced food.
Whilst this week has been quieter and we hope normality will resume, the challenges facing Haiti will not disappear over night.
We need people’s support so we can continue responding.”
International governments have placed Haiti on the highest travel alert warning, which has led to the removal of many Hope Health Action staff members.
Hope Health Action staff member Pippa Coupland, from Kingston, said: “The last two weeks have been painful to say the least.
“I have hated seeing this beautiful country rocked by such violent protests and its people unable to get fuel, food and sometimes water because they cannot get out of their houses.
The protests came very close to our compound, with roadblocks, riots and police intervention coming within two minutes of us.
“During this time, we were on lock down in our compound, and even when the protests were further away, we remained on semi-lock down because of the volatile nature of the protests.
It has been a stressful time.”