Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jenny, Keila and Mark

Jenny, Keila and I reached Managua, Nicaragua last night around 7:30 PM. We had an uneventful trip from Managua, except for the family sprint we had to make in Panama city to get from the arrival gate to the departure for Managua. By the time we stepped off the plane, they were announcing the last call for passengers for the Managua-Guatemala City flight, and we still had to wait for Keila's baby carriage which was still stashed under the plane. Jenny walked a fast walk with Keila while I waited for the carriage, then I took off running after them.

If by chance, the two people I knocked down as I ran by loaded down with two laptops. a medium-sized carry-on and Keila's carriage are reading this, I'm very sorry.

In Managua, when immigration deterimined that we were flying from Haiti, they had members of the well-organized Nicaraguan Ministry of Health pull us aside in order to give us prophylactic medication to make sure that we are not carrying the cholera bacteria. The medical personnel that treated us noted that one mother said her son would never take the pills. "But he did," our doctor said, "I had to take the pills, too, but, hey, it worked, you know?"

Jenny and Keila and I are well. Our friends and work partners in Haiti are also generally doing well, which is amazing. We've made a number of hospital runs with the crew truck, but crew members and close friends are doing all right.

But cholera has hit people hard in the whole area around Hinche-Papay-Bassin Zim, where we live and work. Please do keep Haiti in your prayers and especially, pray that there will be fundamental changes in the government. It has been a government of the wealthy for a very long time. It continues to be so. Preval, the current president, went to great lengths to make sure his people won the elections this past November 28th. The hope of Preval and his fellow party leaders was that there would be few contenders. But there were many valid contenders, and they were all far more popular than Preval's candidates (the "Inite" party). So, when the partial results indicated that almost all of the Inite candidates were frontrunners, the fraud was evident and the response was immediate, with protests and riots just a couple of weeks ago. This past Monday, the government was supposed to announce the final results, but they chickened out. Now? Who knows.

In terms of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, my sense is that many people consider the cholera epidemic to be a result of the thousands of refugees without adequate sanitary conditions in Port au Prince, Leogane, and other cities near the epicenter of the quake. That is not the case. It may not have made the mainline news, but the epidemic started in the Artibonite valley, which is a region north of Port au Prince where there was not heavy damage to the houses and there have not been large camps of refugees in tents at all. As my friend, Robert Morikawa notes, the cholera epidemic didn't start until 10 months after the earthquake, and it started far away from all of the most heavily affected areas.

In fact, there are many good reasons to suspect that the source of the cholera epidemic in Haiti were United Naitions troops from Nepal,stationed in Mirebalais at the head of the Artibonite valley. Sanitary conditions at the UN military base in Mirebalais became abominable, based on several news reports, and as a result, raw sewage began seeping into the Artibonite river watershed. The worst seepage began in late September or early October, just weeks before the first cases of cholera were identified in St. Mark, where the Artibonite drains into the Caribbean sea.

Two additional notes about the cholera. First, in March 2010, concerns for a cholera epidemic in Port au Prince were minimized by world health organizations, noting that cholera had never been present in Haiti and was considered unlikely to show up, because the vast majority of the aid workers coming to help with earthquake relief were from countries with good sanitation. Second, CDC (Center for Disease Control), out of Atlanta, Georgia, has positively identified the type of cholera present in Haiti as the southern asian cholera, endemic to such countries as India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

There were protests against the UN forces in early November, which the UN passed off as politically-related. There may have been political implications, but the fundamental source of the anger was the fact that the UN is a foreign military presence which has now caused the death of over 2,500 Haitians. Biological warfare, or simple incompetence, it has made Haitians victims yet again.

Flooding, earthquakes, cynical and self-interested political leaders, and cholera spread by the United Nations foreign, troops. Violence in all its forms is unproductive, but what can people in Haiti do to get the world to really listen"?

If it takes burning tires, I do wish the tires they burned would be the ones we can't turn inside-out anyway.

Many blessings.

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