PORTLAND — A container packed with medical equipment and relief supplies left Portland on Wednesday, bound for a hospital in Haiti to treat survivors of the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

The effort was led by volunteers of the Konbit Sante Cap-Haitien Health Partnership, a Portland-based organization that has been working in Haiti for nearly a decade.

The supplies will be used at the Justinian University Hospital, a 250-bed teaching hospital in Cap-Haitien, roughly 100 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the epicenter of the earthquake. An estimated 250,000 people died in the quake, with hundreds of thousands injured and in need of shelter, food and water.

Emily Gilkinson, the organization’s operations manager, said the supplies will be used at the hospital and at a community health clinic in Fort St. Michel, one of Cap-Haitien’s poorest neighborhoods. She said Konbit Sante sends one or two containers every year.

“They have such a need for materials because they don’t have regularly stocked supplies,” Gilkinson said. “The hospital depends largely on donated materials and supplies. Without it, they would have nothing.”

Volunteers on Wednesday filled the container with surplus medical supplies donated by Partners for World Health, a Portland-based nonprofit that collects medical goods from hospitals and nursing homes across the state.

Packed in the boxes are sterile needles and syringes, gauze pads, tape, dressing supplies, catheter supplies, alcohol swabs and antiseptic and intravenous solutions.

Elizabeth McLellan, who founded Partners for World Health in 2009, said the supplies would have wound up in a landfill. Since October, the organization has distributed supplies to about 30 locations around the world.

“They have no wash basins in the Third World,” McLellan said. “They reuse sterile syringes and needles two and three times on two or three people. It’s considered a right to have a single-use sterile syringe and needle. In the Third World, it’s a privilege.”

Sue Henry, a volunteer for Partners for World Health, helped pack the container. She said the effort is recycling at its best.

“We are such an abundant country,” Henry said. “It feels good to share what we have.”

The 40-foot container will travel by land to Jacksonville, Fla., then to Cap-Haitien by ship. It is expected to arrive there on June 4.

It’s the first container that Konbit Sante has sent since the earthquake. Gilkinson said after the quake, non-governmental organizations around the country sent many containers of relief supplies to the region. She said Konbit Sante sent smaller batches of critical supplies with volunteers who traveled to Haiti to assist in relief efforts.

The container the group sent Wednesday will replenish the dwindling supplies at Justinian Hospital, she said.

“Until recently, there were containers still in storage,” Gilkinson said. “We wanted to wait till it made sense.”

Portland became a sister city with Cap-Haitien in 2003, in an agreement to support Konbit Sante’s work to improve the city’s public health system.

Nate Nickerson, executive director of Konbit Sante, was in Cap-Haitien for about four weeks after the earthquake. He left Maine again on Tuesday and will stay in Haiti for roughly a month.

Wendy Taylor, who founded the organization with her husband, Dr. Michael Taylor, in 2000, helped pack relief supplies for the shipment. She has traveled to Cap-Haitien about 20 times and expects to return in the fall.

“Every now and then Michael and I look at each other and say we can’t believe it has grown into this,” Taylor said. “It’s been a lot of work by a lot of people, all of whom have a strong commitment to the mission. It’s pretty amazing.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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