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Monday, March 29, 2010

Reflection on Haiti

I did not cry when I was in Haiti. I almost did but I did not. Now that I am back in the states I want to cry every day. Every time I see the pictures I want to cry. There is a sadness in my heart for Haiti. But my tears will not make the situation better. It will not provide water for the children. It will not provide medicine for the dying. I can’t waste my time shedding tears. I have to think of the next step. What will my next trip entail.

If there is one thing that stood out to me on this trip, it is the disparity between the rich and the poor. Haiti has no middle class. You are either rich or poor, and honestly this is something I cannot understand. It does not sit well with me.

As we drove down the streets of Port-au-Prince looking at the devastation. I thought to myself what are these people still doing here? This city needs to evacuated. Especially since there are still after shocks. People are literally setting up shop right under the rubble and outside their tent cities. In watching this two things came to mind. 1. How are these people making any real money when everyone is selling side by side the same products? 2. I thought about how the government is so crippled that they can’t even provide relief to the people. What I found to be puzzling was that if you drive a little further to petionville you will find exclusive restaurants, hotels and stores filled with rich tourists smoking their cigarettes and enjoying a drink while people are right outside the walls sleeping and begging for money.

Interestingly enough not far from the poverty I was living in rested the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my life. Attached to it a gorgeous hotel with a restaurant and bar. For a few dollars men in boats will take you for a ride to see millionaires row…

I don’t get it and I probably never will, but that is why I urge you guys to go and see for yourselves. Many of you think that the Red Cross is taking care of business. Well I don’t see it. Red cross is not going to help Haiti, Mercy Corps is not going to help Haiti, even the UN is not going to help Haiti. I hear America raised millions if not billions of dollars to help Haiti, but I don’t know where the money went. I no longer see those images that were all over the news of people receiving food and water. As a matter of fact I don’t recall seeing anyone from the red cross. I don’t want to discredit these organizations because in reality even if it is just the president and his cabinet receiving the aid its better than nothing right?

I worked in a clinic where I had to dispense my own pain killers as prescription medicine because the clinic did not have it to give. We brought medication to this government operated clinic and unfortunately a lot of the stuff we brought was gone. What I find disgusting is that in the midst of disaster, you will always find those who take it as an opportunity to make money. Apparently pharmaceuticals is a big business in Haiti and because there is such a great demand in Port-au-Prince, many will take to go and sell. This clinic only has one real doctor, one lab tech that does everything and I believe a pharmacist or two along with maybe two nurses. By no stretch of the imagination is this OK. Especially since there is an outbreak of malaria. The doctors are burnt out and there just aren’t that many resources to cater to the needs of the locals.

Many of the patients were children. For some reason every child in the area had red hair which is a sign of malnutrition. Malnutrition leads to a host of other diseases and because their parents were probably also malnourished, many of these children are born with defects. I saw one child that looked like she had something called Turner’s syndrome. Honestly probably the scariest looking child I have ever seen. But what do you do in a situation like this where the people are sick because of food and water deprivation? The mother of this child was pregnant herself. This seemed to be a re-occurring theme throughout the clinic. Parent is sick with child, which leaves the current sick child neglected…

Turner's Syndrome Photo by Hatnim Lee

How do we even attempt to fix this? Is this an education issue? Some of my colleagues would say YES! I agree. Prescribing antibiotics to women in Haiti for vaginal issues is futile. Why because somewhere along the line someone told them that after every menstrual cycle, they must take antibiotics to cleanse. Little do they know this practice is harming them. Stripping their bodies away of the good bacteria and making them immune to the medication itself. The same medication that is suppose to cure them. What about the teachings that certain types of fruit consumed during a certain time of day and season is harmful? Haitians are very superstitious people, and quite frankly the culture maybe killing its people. You have food but you can’t eat it due to an old wives tale?…

So if education is the way how do we go about doing it? Right now the earthquake has crippled the education system. According to my aunt who is a teacher in Haiti, the schools are filled with “refugee’s”. “They are not leaving the site. Some of these people were renting homes or living in the alley, they will not give up their living quarters. In the meantime there is no space to have school. What will happen, we do not know.”

In Cabaret many of the schools are still closed because the teachers are from Port-au-Prince. They cannot leave because they have to handle their business. When it rains the clinic is closed because the medical professionals cannot travel due to the condition of the roads. So it seems even if you wanted to educate it cannot happen because there are all these external issues… For those of you who are in to developing third world countries, you may want take a stab at this puzzle because I really have no clue. What I do know is that something has to be done to protect the future of Haiti.