I went to work today wearing a red shirt under my work shirt to mark the 7th day since the earthquake that shook Haiti last week.
I didn’t sleep much last night, partly tormented by terrible stories I’ve been hearing all weekend long. The children are a huge story this week: the orphans who were on the verge of finalized adoptions but suddenly found themselves without proper paperwork; the new orphans, whose numbers aren’t even estimated yet; the children who died despite the best efforts of rescue teams who worked tirelessly for hours trying to locate them.
But the most horrific story had to do with doctors, the very people who are supposed to be sworn to “first, do no harm”.
Last night (Monday, January 18, 2010), CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta filed a story that made my hair stand on end. Apparently, a Belgian medical team, unable to obtain serucity for themselves and their two dozen or so patients, decided to pack up and leave the makeshift hospital overnight, with no one staying behind to take care of them.
It is unclear exactly what happened to make the team leave, whether they were ordered out or simply chickened out altogether in the face of rumors of rioting nearby. What was not shown in the bit on tv was that the Canadian team pulled out the day before.
Although I do not mean to judge, as I’m not sure what I’d do in the same situation, I am surprised that not one member of the team said “No way, I can’t leave these people behind, please leave me some supplies and does anyone else volunteer to stay overnight?”
I’m also disturbed because it appears they took the time to pack up most of their gear, while their patients, many of whom had just undergone surgery and needed critical care, watched.
[WARNING: the following content contains VERY graphic images. If you are squeamish at all, please forgo the images]
Of course, after 6 days, there were increasing reports of looting (stealing money, candles, cigarettes, presumably anything else they thought they could resell or use for themselves), some of which was reported by CNN over the weekend. In a searing incident in downtown Port-au-Prince, Anderson Cooper found himself in the midst of a situation he couldn’t stand by and watch. A young boy, standing around in a crowd of people attempting to secure various items from a demolished store, was hit in the head by a large rock or piece of concrete. Anderson put down his camera and grabbed the boy, who was clearly dazed, and took him to a safer location.
On a more prosaic note, Wyclef Jean gave a heartfelt press conference, defending his charity, Yélé (I wish I could find the original video with his comments in créole):
It’s been a difficult weekend. I go to work and my feet work, but I am happy to have feet with which to feel pain.