Saturday, April 18, 2009

haiti update - april 18, 2009

“Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” Proverbs 26:9

Hi! This week a couple of incidents happened which contribute to a bad image for the Haitian people. Raras can get quite rowdy sometimes. On Monday afternoon we were coming back from the coast guard station and got stuck in the Carrefour traffic. We decided to take the Fontamara road and made good progress until we came across a small rara. There were 3 UN vehicles in front of us and we decided to follow the rara instead of waiting in the Carrefour traffic. There was a gray haired rasta man who must have been around 70 years old and he was proudly smoking a marijuana joint. He went up to all the UN vehicles and smoked the joint in front of them. By the time he got to us he finished it off and then switched to drinking “Clairin” (Haitian moonshine). Another younger guy was pushing a wheelbarrow full of gallon jugs of clairin. I have never seen a rara before with a wheelbarrow driver to haul the alcohol. He would stop the wheelbarrow in the middle of the road from time to time and all the UN vehicles would have to wait for him to decide to move again. He was a little drunk too because he would sip from the supply when he stopped and when he pushed the wheelbarrow he weaved across the road. There was another guy walking beside the wheelbarrow making sure that none of the gallon jugs of clairin would fall out of the wheelbarrow. The UN police car should have stopped them for drunk driving! We went on until we were at Habitation Leclerc and all the UN vehicles drove into the UN base there. This is also where the small rara was heading. They joined up with all their other friends and there must have been 700 people having a street party beside the base. The Sri Lankan UN soldiers weren’t doing anything. They were watching from their compound and taking pictures of the festivities. The drunken wheelbarrow driver was welcomed by the crowd with a cheer. We turned Kimosabee around and headed back to the Carrefour road to sit in the traffic jam.
Street justice can be severe sometimes. We were driving in the downtown area on Friday and saw a man lying on the road. At first I thought he was dead but when we got close I saw him move an arm. This was right in front of the gate at General Hospital. I thought it was strange that nobody was helping him. He was a handicapped man because he had a cane with a clasp holding it to his arm. We talked with the vendors that were by him and they explained how he came to be lying in the street. They said that he had been bugging them to give him food and when they didn’t he defecated on the street by where they were selling. He also was knocking over merchandise. The people had enough and beat him badly. While we were talking to the vendors a vehicle came out of the gate of General Hospital to turn onto the street and didn’t notice the man lying on the ground. I pounded on the hood of his car and yelled at him to stop and he did. The vehicle almost ran over his head. There was a policeman by the gate of the hospital and I told him about the man lying on the road and he said he would take care of it. We left and an hour later the man was still lying on the road. We saw a Haitian Red Cross vehicle and I figured that they would remove the man from the street. Later in the afternoon we picked up Deedee, Michelore and Vanessa from the coast guard station and the man was no longer on the street. He was moved to the other side of the street on the sidewalk under a shady tree. This morning I thought that if we saw him still lying on the ground we would try to convince the Missionaries of Charity to take him in for care but he was gone. Hopefully, he is still alive. This shows the state of the public health system when an injured person can be left lying on the road in front of the gate of a hospital and the hospital won’t help.
It is because of the poor public health system that the USNS Comfort was sent to Haiti. Many people went to the clinic at the Amiral Killick coast guard station and at the location by Cite Soleil. People in Haiti are desperate for medical care. Last Friday and Saturday were appointments for surgical cases where appointments were submitted ahead of time. There were long lineups and some people tried to push to get to the front of the line and they crowded the gate. We were able to get approval to get some of our people in so that they wouldn’t have to stand in line but we had to get to the gate first. With the parents we had to carry the children so that they wouldn’t get bumped by other people. Some people who were waiting outside in line ended up passing out from the heat. There was no shelter from the sun for those waiting in line to get onto the clinic grounds. One lady had a seizure while in line but the military could not bring her into the clinic. When she recovered from the seizure the family brought her home. There were some problems with the distribution of the cards. Before the hospital ship arrived several local hospitals were given cards to distribute to people who needed to see the ship doctors. I spoke with several people who said that one of the Carrefour area hospitals was charging $300H (38US$) for an exam to see if they qualified for a card and then after that $10H needed to be paid for the card. These were supposed to be distributed free. Other people were saying that they had to pay $40-50H for a card. It is sad that some people will use corruption to better themselves. Many people tried to attend the daily clinics that didn’t have a card and stood in line with the hope of being let in. The demand for the ship services far exceeded the amount that could be seen. There were a few cleft lip patients attending the clinic who are adults and they now have the opportunity to have surgery. Another man with a disfiguring facial tumor will also have his face operated on. We spoke with some of the people who were waiting out front and couldn’t get in and took down their information and they are now part of our medical search list. This week all the surgeries were done on board the ship. Transport to the main hospital ship was done by boat launches. Kervens Guerrier had surgery to repair a clubbed foot. Roosevelt Rejuste had hernia surgery. We helped a few missions out in getting care for some of their people. Michelore Noel, who is part of Deedee’s mission, had a rod put in to straighten his leg. He’ll have to wear a cast for about 8 weeks. This is the boy who was told that would never walk again a couple of years ago. He has been getting good nutrition and care at Deedee’s and is doing well. He walks and runs and the surgery that was done will help him to walk and run better. The bone breaks and bending of the bones were caused by his malnutrition while growing up in the village. He even got the chance to ride in a helicopter for the trip back from the ship to the coast guard station. Several other people received operations for gynecological, orthopedic, cataracts and general surgery problems. We give the Lord thanks for this bountiful harvest of surgical care! Pray for all those recovering from surgery. Lukner got his eyes checked and now has new glasses. They gave him a pair of glasses and also sunglasses. Everyone who got accepted for medical care was thankful for the care that they received. I hope that another hospital ship will be sent next year because I don’t expect the public health system to improve much here in a year’s time. Please pray for another hospital ship to come to Haiti.
On April 20th there will be a plastic surgery team from Operation Smile in Haiti to operate at the hospital in Cange, which is located on the Central Plateau. Pray that they are able to help many patients.
We got the passport this week for Ivona Dessalines and now are preparing her visa application. Pray she will be granted a medical visa.
This week is a busy one for the Haitian government. On Tuesday there was a Donor’s Conference on Haiti in Washington and representatives from several countries attended. 324 million dollars in aid was pledged in additional aid to help the country recover from last year’s hurricane damage and food shortages. On Thursday the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Haiti to meet with President Preval and also visit the USNS Comfort clinic site in Cite Soleil and an industrial park. We saw Hillary Clinton at the Palais National. We were driving past the palace to go to the archives for paperwork and saw all the diplomatic vehicles on the palace grounds. The UN had the road blocked off in front of the palace. When we returned from the archives was when Hillary was leaving the palace and we saw her standing on the front steps of the palace with President Preval. The police had the road blocked and the procession of diplomatic vehicles passed right in front of us. Lukner was excited that he got to see Hillary Clinton. With his new glasses he says he can see much better! On Sunday April 19th are the senatorial elections and the government is taking precautions. The education minister requested all schools to be closed on Friday and also Monday, so there are no classes here at Coram Deo for those days. No vehicles or motorcycles are allowed on the streets on Sunday so we are going to spend the day at home. No food vendors or alcohol are allowed to be sold on the streets starting this evening until Monday morning. I don’t know anyone who wants to vote and I think that the voter turnout will be very low. Pray for a peaceful election.
That’s all the news for today. Have a good weekend!

Karen Bultje, Coram Deo

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