As thousands of earthquake survivors poured out of Port-au-Prince and relief workers focused their attentions on speeding up food delivery, shoring up distribution stations and continuing apace the grim task of body recovery, a team from a Dominican Republic Jewish center convoyed into Haiti on Monday to hand out food and water to desperate locals and assist efforts at a field hospital.

The hospital, located at a soccer field in the Haitian capital by a unit from the Israel Defense Force’s Home Front Command, has reported a string of good news since opening on Saturday. A total of 200 earthquake victims have been treated, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 39 of whom underwent life-saving surgeries. Although the IDF listed five deaths, a labor-and-delivery tent at the hospital saw the births of three babies, including one tiny newborn whose mother named him Israel.

Rabbi Shimon Pelman, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dominican Republic, said that things were chaotic outside the hospital as droves of hungry and thirsty Haitians surrounded a truck driven by a visiting rabbinical student from New York. Pelman and another rabbinical student emptied the truck of its 20,000 pounds of supplies, handing out such carbohydrate-rich foods as bread and pasta, and bottles of water.

“Thank G‑d, we’re able to help, but these people need so much more,” said the rabbi, who in conjunction with Chabad of the Caribbean, established a relief fund soon after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed tens of thousands of people and reduced Port-au-Prince to rubble. “Security has broken down in many areas of the city because of the lack of such basic necessities as food, water and medicine. Everyone is asking for help.”

At the hospital, where Pelman and the rabbinical students ferried stretchers of patients between treatment areas, Israeli military doctors, nurses and support staff worked day and night to treat as many patients as possible. While they operated, their colleagues in Israeli search-and-rescue teams raced against time to find trapped survivors in all sectors of the city.

According to the IDF, rescuers aided by a K-9 unit were able to extract two female students, including a six-year-old girl, and ferry them to the hospital.

Assisted by a rabbinical student, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shimon Pelman, right, distributes food to earthquake survivors.
Assisted by a rabbinical student, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shimon Pelman, right, distributes food to earthquake survivors.

For many, though, the best news to come out of the troubled region was the Jan. 17 birth, the hospital’s first since the beginning of the mission. When the mother was admitted, she was suffering from injuries incurred in the quake.

“We brought her in at about 3 a.m.,” said Maj. Shir Dor, a gynecologist. “The delivery room … is essentially like any, even though it is in a soccer field. And she gave birth, a normal delivery.”

The newborn’s a “cute, healthy baby,” continued Dor. “Essentially, everything went well.”

The woman’s midwife, Maj. Efrat Shrir, said that with all the tragedy in Haiti, the birth of new life came as a blessing.

“We departed on this mission with a sense of dedication and purpose,” said Shrir. “The fact that we were able to help this woman is a real contribution.”