Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thoughts on past few days

I think taking a week off to get out of Haiti was a good idea. Without knowing it, I had started to get used to things down here and accepted things that I saw as normal when they really shouldn't be.

Buildings (this one being a school) should not look like this.

People shouldn't be living in the center divider of a major highway in 'houses' like these.

And you should definitely not have to wait in a line like this to see a doctor.

I think that certain things have become accepted here and the problem is so huge that it's hard to focus on anything more than tomorrow. There are naturally so many immediate concerns (food, water, health care, temporary shelter) so the larger issues that have been plaguing the country for years (government corruption, unemployment, lack of infrastructure) are naturally falling by the wayside.

What concerns me is that most of the groups that I got used to seeing during my last three weeks here have now gone home. There was a huge international presence initially and that was incredibly refreshing. But there are very few left. And that leaves the prospects for rebuilding this country and addressing the long-term problems seem incredibly slim.

Today I visited two completely different types of medical facilities but the great thing about both of them is that they are committed to staying in Haiti and figuring out a way to treat the people for the long term. Since the earthquake, Partners in Health (a group started by a Harvard Doctor named Paul Farmer in the 80's) have set up four 'mobile clinics' in different tent cities around PaP. These clinics are set-up in very rough conditions and they are essentially operating out of tents (I was reminded of M.A.S.H) in large fields without any running water, medical equipment aside from stethescopes and blood pressure cuffs, or computerized record system. But they services they provide are absolutely essential. They are doing everything from re hydrating kids to treating STDs to testing pregnant moms for HIV. All of this out of a small army tent. (Incidentally, many of the supplies and medicines they are using to do this came from Direct Relief).

From there I went to the University of Miami field hospital that is set-up in four gigantic tents on the airport grounds. While they are also operating out of tents, they have the most state of the art hospital I've ever seen in a field setting. They have everything from surgical theaters (they have operated and amputated roughly 1,000 people) to a neonatal ICU which held the smallest babies you've ever seen. That being said, this is still Haiti, a country without a single incinerator, so all the hospital waste (think about it) is all dumped 1oo yards away under a mango tree. Yikes.

But at least they're staying...

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