This is a personal “From the Field” story by Direct Relief Employee Katie Lewis, USA Partner Liaison.
We toured New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward in the morning, where much of the devastation from Katrina is still apparent. Crossing the Industrial Canal, we could see the newly constructed levees. It wasn’t hard to imagine how, with enough water, the canal could overflow into the nearby neighborhoods. We passed row after row of destroyed city blocks. Windows and doors were boarded up and spray painted with Xs, used as a marker during Katrina to identify the number of survivors and the number of deceased. Roofs were caved in, and walls were completely missing as many of these homes have remained untouched since 2005. Now and then we came across a home that had been rebuilt. Despite all the demolition, people remain in the Lower Ninth Ward as homes are renovated one by one.
Our next stop was the St. Gabriel Eastside Community Health Center, in St. Gabriel, outside Baton Rouge, where we met with Phyllis Adams, chief executive officer. St. Gabriel sustained minor wind damage from Hurricane Gustav; part of the roof was blown off, destroying some of their immunization stock. Luckily, insurance will cover the roof damage, and the State of Louisiana will replace the spoiled medication. St. Gabriel closed for four days after Gustav due to lack of power. The center received a generator from a local church and ran the clinic with minimal lights and no air conditioning. Most of the patients the clinic saw in those early days suffered from depression, hypertension, and asthma, and many needed medications for chronic conditions. A social worker and a psychologist on-site worked with the medical director and nurses to care for these patients.