Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cite Soleil's Mural

There is a mural painted on a wall as you turn right off of Route National 1 into Cite Soleil. It is a picture of a Haitian woman with a tear running down her cheek as she holds a baby that is melded on the side of her sad face. The baby is looking the opposite direction and has an emaciated look. Both faces are incorporated into a white bird and the flag of Haiti is on the mother's scarf.

On the left side of the picture is the ever present picture of a gun with a red line through it.

The mural says so much and is so true. Mothers and babies of Soleil are beat up with violence and injustice. Their suffering is still unbearable. And most of the world doesn't know.

During the last three months there has been much news out of Soleil. MINUSTAH brags to the world that they have flushed out gang leaders and arrested hundreds of gang soldiers. Soleil’s situation must be better if you believe what you read.

Even though tanks still cruise Soleil's narrow streets, the UN soldiers are on foot patrolling Soleil. Several months ago they wouldn’t descend from their tanks and now I see soldiers back in the corridors of the slum. So things must be better...

Also, MINUSTAH does not seem to be firing on innocent groups of people from their tanks or helicopters and filling Soleil’s one pathetic hospital, Saint Catherine, with complex gunshot victims.

Will this absurd violence start again? No one knows.

A resident of Soleil told me today that “things are delicate” but there has been some decrease in the stress and violence on the streets, even though her home was robbed last week. Another person told me that younger ambitious gang members will take over and “thievery is on the rise”.

However, it is hard for me to see how wonderful things are in Soleil.

The clinic I work in the back part of Soleil is filled with sick, moribund, and dying babies. Two Haitian doctors and I do what we can, but when a baby starts to swirl the drain from sepsis, dehydration, or starvation, there is no place to triage the baby for real quality care. Saint Catherine’s is full, understaffed, filthy, and horrible. However, I have to admit that I would send my sick patients there if I could.

Soleil’s people deserve so much more.

I think that not all is black and white in Soleil. The ground is always shifting. The ultra rights fight the ultra lefts about what should be done.

The chimere are horrible. MINUSTAH is horrible. The gran mange are horrible. The poor people in Soleil are horrible.

The verbal and written attacks by different folks are malicious and seem counterproductive.

What is malicious is poverty.

It seems that no one compromises as the Haitian women sit on wooden planks and wait for ten hours with their sick kids and then receive very suboptimal medical care from me in the stench of Soleil.

My stomach churns with anger against everybody. No one is here. But everyone seems to have the answer for Soleil.

I don’t think the poor in Soleil ask for much. They would like what you have: jobs, education, food, water, basic medical care, security, and justice. They really don’t ask for much during the course of the day. And that even makes me feel worse…

The last baby I saw today was severely dehydrated, not crying, and very sick. I told the mother he was “grave” and referred the baby to a pediatric hospital on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. I don’t think she will make it there with him.

As she pondered her one option, tears came down her face, like the lady on the mural.

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