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IRT leader shares details in exclusive interview


By Marisa Kezirian and Miriam Raftery


January 21, 2010 (Haiti) – Last night a local rescue worker from International Rescue Team (IRT) in San Diego helped treat a five-year-old boy pulled from beneath a collapsed building in Haiti. Miraculously the child survived eight days without food or water, as far as rescuers can determine.


The boy was dehydrated but in remarkably good shape given his ordeal, emerging with what one TV newscaster has dubbed "the smile seen round the world."  Watch video on CNN or on IRT's website.


"Our own IRT volunteer Colleen Buono, MD helped to save the little boy,” Barry LaForgia, executive director of IRT in San Diego, told East County Magazine. 



The IRT team has been saving other survivors’ lives by “doing amputations, wound care, and preparing people for surgery,” he added.


The local team, assembled within 36 hours of the quake, includes four doctors and a nurse from areas throughout San Diego County. They departed here on Saturday, January 16th.


“The only way to get through was through the Dominican Republic,” La Forgia explained, “so we went to the border and stopped as we administered aid and assessments. We continued into Haiti on Monday arriving in Port-au-Prince. Through the lead organization our team was able to obtain lodging on the floor of a hotel and they have been working at the general hospital as much as they can, in order to help out in the area.”


Asked what help is most needed, he replied, “What definitely has to happen is the Port must be reopened again so people can start sending substantial supplies in. Better logistics at the airport also need to be figured out so more supplies can be delivered both reliably and quickly. Right now, things are just too congested at the airport so it is crucial that everything gets worked out. Since the Port was damaged, everyone has been relying on air transport , which is extremely limited and expensive.”


Henri Migala, executive dean at Cuyamaca College, worked with IRT when the Asian tsunami struck and offers high praise for their efforts. “If you are considering making a donation to assist the victims in Haiti, I would strongly recommend making a donation to San Diego-based International Releif Teams, where I worked as the Director of International Health Programs for three years,” he said. “IRT has a staff of 5 people, manages an annual budget that averages about $14 million, and provides its own direct relief efforts through volunteer clinicians. Their audited administrative overhead is always about 2% (which means that for every dollar donated, 98 cents will make it to the beneficiaries).”


He added, “Also, because of IRT's established relationships with pharmaceutical organizations, they are able to leverage up to $100 worth of medicines and medical supplies for each $1 donated! For $10,000, they can purchase $1,000,000 worth of medicines and medical supplies. They really do great work.”


Donations to help IRT’s Haiti relief efforts may be made at http://www.irteams.org.

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