Thursday, November 30, 2006


Rounds of automatic gunfire will definitely cause guys to jump off the open window sills in the clinic. This happened yesterday. As things became quiet, they would wander back over to the windows and timidly look out onto the street. Women vendors could be seen running. However, inside the clinic the patients barely flinched.

One can hear about the United Nations and the gangs warring in Soleil, but to be in the slum, working the medical clinic, with the gunshots so close is the real thing.

The variety of patients were the same as usual in the slum. After checking about 100 patients, treating them, and giving them the best disposition we could under the circumstances, we left Soleil in our ugly white “mobile medical van”. It has two huge home made flags with pineapples painted on them. Coursing through the narrow streets we could hear rounds of gunshots again from an unknown location.

We followed a UN tank of soldiers pictured in the photo above. Their faces appeared very tense. I didn’t know if it was good or bad that we were so close to the tank. Were the gunshots headed for them? If we followed too closely would the soldier who had his rifle aimed at our windshield shoot? Did they know we were “friendly”?

The UN tank in front of us turned to the left and we continued straight ahead to take a different way out of Soleil. A few hundred yards down the street were UN tanks that were parked to the right of us. As our driver laughed, some of us sank low in our seats just in case because the soldiers were obviously edgy and their arms were aimed right at our vehicle. Our Haitian doctor wisely summarized the situation and said, “You never know.”

We made it out of the slum just fine. But most of our patients did not nor did their 200,000 neighbors that live there. They are caught every day between poverty and bullets.

The young man pictured below was shot by UN forces and underwent a right leg amputation. His brother, who looks like he is a twin, was shot in the left leg by UN forces also and has a lower leg fracture that never united so his left foot just hangs at the bottom of his leg. The brothers both have crutches and forearms with tatoos.

I asked them why the UN comes into Soleil and shoots. Their answer was that the UN does not like young people in dread locks who are “dragons” (chimere).

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