Thursday, January 21, 2010
Better to Light one Candle...
See Elaine Hopkins post regarding local support of Haiti.
Pictured to the right is a small Haitian Hearts patient with her mom.
January 21, 2010
Peoria connections with Haiti: inside stories
PEORIA -- Many people from central Illinois are involved in charities that attempt to help Haiti. Below are some accounts of what's really going on there. The first is from Dr. John Carroll, a founder of Haitian Hearts, which arranges for heart surgery for Haitians.
1. None of what happened or is happening in Haiti is surprising to me. The courage of the Haitian people during adverse circumstances is what I am used to seeing.
2. The international community is a day late and a dollar short as usual. Haiti's government is mainly absent right now. Haiti's government has actually been absent for many years. The Haitian people have no trust in their government whatsoever. Haitian police are executing looters right now. Haitian police have told the people of Cite Soleil to kill gang members that have escaped from the prison when it fell.
Building codes, infrastructure, clean water, basic things needed to be in place like humans deserve, decades before the quake. The quake would still have happened, but recovery would have been much quicker and less lives lost.
3. And why is PAP so densely populated? Because people can't survive in the countryside because the trees have been cut down, deforested, because they use the trees to make charcoal to cook. But with deforestation, the erosion is terrible during the rainy season and the Haitian farmers can't plant and grow crops. So they can't live and wonder in from the country side and live in massive shanty towns in the capital. The shanty towns, frequently named for the area in the countryside (province) where they come from, may have hundreds of thousands of people.
Haitian farmers have been hurt by food that comes in from overseas and sold on the market for much less than the Haitian farmer can sell his grain. Haitian farmers work by hand and hoe, not big tractors. They have no good fertilizer.
So if PAP, which may be able to accommodate 400,000 people, did not have 3 million people living on top of each other, there would be less chaos and less death now because the epicenter was just a few miles west of PAP. Now, people are fleeing the capital to head out to the pathetic and poor countryside. The roads are damaged even more, the villages are flattened south and west of the capital, and people are even leaving on overcrowded ferries. And we know that overcrowded Haitian ferries don't historically do well. One trip in the early 90's, I saw hundreds of bodies at the General Hospital of people that drowned on a ferry called the Neptune...several thousand people lost their lives on the Neptune, and it barely made international news.
4. The Haitian elite of course has not been interviewed by the media. They really control Haiti and are hunkered down in their big homes, surrounded by security, or have already left Haiti for New York, Montreal, Miami, etc. It used to be said that 40 influential Haitian families controlled 40% of the wealth in Haiti. What plans do Haitians elite have to rebuild Haiti? They have no plan of course. They have their textile factories, etc, which with globalization enslave the Haitian people all the more.
5. The stages of Disaster Medicine are playing out in Haiti. First there is the acute injuries and confusion. Extrication of victims is on everyone's mind. Now we are entering Stage II of infection, lack of water, new water borne diseases, lack of security, lack of housing, new orphans, and what we all forget is the psychological trauma of surviving an earthquake while your family doesn't.
6. Maria and I have probably received or sent 400-500 emails or phone calls in the last 8 days. My patients call from Haiti or send an indirect message through a friend or send a message via internet. Many Haitian Hearts patients are homeless and living on the street. You can listen to a voice mail I received last night from a Haitian friend living on the sidewalks begging for help. They have lost all of their medicine and all of their material goods. Of all the patients we have played a roll in bringing to the US for surgery, we have lost one 7 year old girl who was killed instantly in her house as the quake hit. She had been operated in Saint Louis a couple of years ago.
7. Haiti's future is uncertain to say the least. It will take decades to "recover".At least one silver lining is that the world for the first time has seen the courage of the Haitian people and their suffering. Most of Haiti's days have been bad during the last 29 years that I have been working there. This will be the worst natural disaster ever recorded in the Americas in my opinion.
These are a few of my thoughts about the disaster....
Again, an ounce of prevention would have been worth a pound of cure...the camera crews will leave shortly, and Haitians will have some help, but not enough.
-- Dr. John Carroll
This commentary is from Pat Sloan of Hands Helping Haiti. The website gives some information, and here's more:
Our group is a 501(c)(3). We have people involved primarily between Peoria and Rockford, Illinois. We sponsor a clinic in Hinche and just built a school last year near Jacmel. We sponsor a number of children and the school as well. We have 4 Haitian staff.
Thank goodness our school and staff are OK. All the children we've found have been OK, although most of their houses have been damaged or destroyed. We stay somewhat in contact, but it is very difficult, because the cell phone system is not working well and they are not getting new fuel for their generators yet.
We do at least one medical clinic per year which involves 12 - 20 from the states and about the same number from Haiti. We will be rescheduling our trip for as soon as we can. We've been preparing for months to go down Feb. 1, but that won't happen now.
I help with the clinic and the school construction, but mostly now about our water filter project which we were on the verge of starting production. It will be somewhat delayed, but this earthquake just points out even more that safe drinking water is of utmost importance.
-- Pat Sloan
Also, see Pam Adams article below.
Let's not fail poor Haiti again
Posted Jan 20, 2010 @ 10:30 PM
Haiti is never far from central Illinois.
No further than right around the corner or just down the block, there's a neighbor who cared for, maybe adopted, a Haitian child brought here for heart surgery through the Haitian Hearts program.
Or a cousin who travels there often on medical mission trips with Friends of the Children of Haiti.
Or a co-worker who's involved with Haiti Mission Connection, another Peoria-based group that organizes medical mission trips to Haiti.
There's a friend who was a foster mom to teenage refugees fleeing Haiti in the 1980s, or a member of one of many area churches that do the trips, raise the money to help feed, house and school Haiti's poorest.
Even before the earthquake, Haiti and its problems had been growing closer to central Illinois. One friend, one church, one co-worker, one cousin, one neighbor is connected to 10, and 10 are connected to hundreds who give time, money or compassion to the island nation best known as one of the poorest countries in the world, the absolute poorest in the western hemisphere.
Poor Haiti. Already doomed to dependence on the kindness of strangers, and now a major earthquake has crushed the country to the bone, leaving much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruin, displacing some 3 million people and who-knows-how-many tens of thousands dead.
To go to Haiti 30 years ago was to return to central Illinois with a sublime appreciation for the marvel of running water and traffic stoplights. To go to Haiti today is to confront wreckage that leads a coordinator of Doctors Without Borders to tell the Associated Press, "We were forced to buy a saw in the market to continue the amputations."
Poor Haiti. With each passing day, the death toll climbs as deaths due to natural disaster give way to deaths due to the man-made disasters that hinder aid to the injured, avoidable deaths brought on by the economic and political poverty that leaves Haiti's social infrastructure virtually paralyzed in the aftermath of a massive earthquake.
Central Illinois and Haiti are close. Haiti and the United States are linked.
The barren land known as Haiti was once a fertile colony of France. It was France's richest colony, producing at various times in its very early history three-fourths of the world's sugar, coffee, rum and cotton.
If the United States was the first independent nation in the Americas, Haiti was the second. Both countries share a history of revolution to overthrow colonial masters. After that, the histories diverge. An independent U.S. feared an independent neighbor where slaves had overthrown slave masters. The U.S. went on to become the richest country in the hemisphere, Haiti the poorest.
As one partial explanation of Haiti's persistent poverty goes, in Haiti, slaves overthrew their masters and Haitians have been paying for it ever since - beginning with billions paid, essentially in reparations to the French, to gain diplomatic recognition from the rest of the world.
Haiti's own legacy of corrupt regimes combined with our own often disastrous political, economic and immigration policies toward Haiti have continued almost to this day.
"For some of us Haiti is a neighbor and, for others of us, it is a place of historic and cultural ties," former President Bill Clinton told the Washington Post. "But for all of us it is now a test of resolve and commitment."
Current President Barack Obama has promised the U.S. will not fail the test.
U.S. policies toward Haiti have not always been as benevolent as the efforts of the friend, the church, the co-worker, the cousin, the neighbor in central Illinois. But if there was ever opportunity in disaster, it's time for this nation's long-term policies toward Haiti to get closer to what Haiti needs rather than what the U.S. wants.
Pam Adams is a columnist with the Journal Star. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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