Monday, November 15, 2010

Haiti in a Time of Cholera

I haven't been able to blog all weekend because all I can think about is this horror story.

Three weeks after it was confirmed for the first time ever in the Caribbean nation, the waterborne sickness has claimed at least 800 lives. The United Nations has warned that up to 200,000 Haitians could contract cholera as the outbreak spreads across the battered Caribbean nation of nearly 10 million.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders and the health ministry have set up tents inside the hospital. The sick are lined up in beds with clear IV tubes in their arms. Those too weak to turn their bodies get beds with holes and buckets in the centre.

My companion S├ębastien is with a mobile medical team in the rural north looking for people too sick or poor to make it to a clinic or a hospital.

I haven't heard from him for four days so I have no idea what he's dealing with, but I know it must be awful. And needless to say I'm sick with worry.

I wish I could say it was just a question of donating more money. Although more money is desperately needed. 

But the truth is the situation is beyond that. It's not just the health system that is broken. It's the country itself.

I have no idea how to heal a country. What I do know is that Canada played a major role in the overthrow of the Aristide government in 2004.

But because we were so concerned with sucking up to the Americans in Afghanistan, we didn't do enough to build up the Haitian state, in a country where so many people  look up to us. And this is the bitter harvest.

Within a few hours, her father walks out of the hospital. Clercilia is again in his arms. Her stiff body is wrapped in a plastic bag. A death certificate is in her father’s right hand.

“It was night, I couldn’t take her until the morning,” he said. With no money to bury her, he wasn’t sure what he would do with her body. He straightened it in his arms and walked his daughter home, still draped in the yellow blanket.

We could have done so much. Unlike Afghanistan we could have made a difference. Building hospitals, or sewage treatment plants, instead of police stations.

We could have used our peacekeeping skills to help mediate this madness

But we didn't.

Remember the poor suffering people of Haiti, who deserve so much better.

Remember the heroic medical teams who are fighting so desperately to save them.

For they are my heroes...

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