Haiti: How WFP Staffer Dug His Kids Out Of Rubble

Published on 22 January 2010

Henry's kids going to school before the quake. Left to right: Girard, Graham, Emeline and Ralph.

(Copyright: WFP/Photolibrary)

When the earthquake hit Haiti at 16:53 on 12 January, WFP Programme Officer Gumel Henry was at the office. The first thing he did was run home. School had finished and he knew his children would be there. As he ran, he passed one collapsed building after another...

PORT AU PRINCE -- When Gumel got home, he found his two-storey house in ruins. His children - Emeline, Girard, Graham and Ralph - were trapped beneath the rubble. Gumel raced back to the country office to fetch some tools and then back again to to begin the frantic task of digging out his family.

It took him five hours to pull his eldest son, 15-year-old Girard Gumel Jr, from the ruins (see photo below left). He was in a life-threatening condition. Thirteen-year-old Graham had broken a leg, while Ralph, Gumel's youngest son, had head trauma. His daughter Emeline and the children's mother escaped without injuries.

Appeal for blood

Girard was evacuated to hospital in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, accompanied by WFP Medical Officer Sergio Arena, on 18 Jan. Graham and Ralph were also evacuated.

According to Logistics Project Manager Peter Casier, who was among staff sent from Rome following the disaster, Graham needed an urgent blood transfusion, but his blood type was not available. Jayne Adams, officer-in-charge in Santo Domingo, appealed to the WFP staff until she found someone with the same blood type, who agreed to donate.

Recovering in hospital

"I am a hardened emergency guy, but when I heard that story, and saw those pictures my heart turned," said Peter. "This is an excellent example of how WFP staff pulls together in an emergency situation, and how we take care of each other."

Girard and Graham are now recovering in hospital, while Ralph has been discharged.

Many other staff were not so lucky. One of WFP's drivers, found the body of his 24-year-old daughter in the ruins of her university the day after the quake. The next day, he was back at work.

"Everyone is driving. Everyone is suffering. It is painful, but that is our job," he told The Washington Post.

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