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Sunday, 20th April 2014

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Haiti is a shame on the world

The sole mention of Haiti evokes images of destruction, poverty, disease, death, the same inferno, but in relation to the island of La Gonave, belonging to this sister Caribbean nation, there are no adjectives to describe the horrific poverty endured by its population, virtually abandoned to its fate, and now tormented by cholera.

Located to the west of Port-au-Prince in the gulf of Gonave, to any outsider it presents a desolate landscape, barren and dry, which prevents agricultural cultivation, and where the lack of drinking water is threatening human life.

Nevertheless, on Gonave, Cuban doctors are wasting no time in confronting not only the cholera epidemic, but as many other health problems that they come across in the Cholera Treatment Center that they established their this month.

After landing in the dusty capital district of Anse á Gales, we arrived at the Cuban Medical Brigade’s area of operations: the hamlets of Gros Mangle, La Source and Pointe des Lataniers, with some 12,000 inhabitants, located in a straight line to the north, reached by rough roads over limestone and dog-rock, following the coastline with the sea on the right and the mountains on the left.

There people are living in run-down dirt floor dwellings with no toilet facilities, built with dry mangrove roots, stone or mud.

Manuel de Jesús Pérez from Holguín province, registered nurse and head of the Cuban brigade members in La Gonave, commented that prominent in these populations are skin infections, intestinal parasites, hernias and large tumors, eye conditions, malaria, typhoid fever and high blood pressure, the last condition brought about by drinking brackish water. There I witnessed the hopeless regards of men, women, children and old people barefoot and almost naked, but also expressions of relief after the Cuban doctors have treated their "aches and pains."

Manuel affirms: "Haiti is a shame on the world in the 21st century, many of these people are getting sick and dying without knowing why, when in many cases, that can be avoided."

A blessing

In these hamlets, which live off of rudimentary fishing and charcoal production for their own survival and to earn a few gourdes (Haitian currency), the presence of the Cuban doctors has been a "blessing," for which they express their thanks just by looking into their eyes.

In the 30-bed La Source cholera treatment center, 40 kilometers from Anse á Gales, nurse Alejandro Fores Arafet from Holguín, relates, still with emotion, how he saved the life of four-year-old Bagosya Eglais, a little girl with cholera, for whom incredibly they were able to perform an osteoclasis (introducing rehydration salts through bone tissue) in the upper third of her left tibia, given that her veins had collapsed.

Or the happy story of Dr. Fivelis Rodríguez Jova from Villa Clara, with international brigade experience in Pakistan and Bolivia who, together with Fores Arafet and Nurse Pedro Vladimir Caleiro Vera, also of Villa Clara, restored the health of young patients Angela Morris, Eltier Delega and Likne Wilse who, after recovering from their shock, now understand why it is necessary to wash their hands, cook food thoroughly, and chlorinate water before drinking it.

Nurses Pedro Vladimir Caleiro (left) and Alejandro Fores Arafet (right), administer rehydration i.v. which saved the life of cholera patient Angela Morris

Manuel explains that in the nine days since the opening of the center, the first field hospital set up in that area, 19 local people had been saved from cholera.

"Given the demand, we have had to open an additional field hospital, outside the grounds of the treatment center, for medical consultations. Through today, we have already seen more than 1,750 people with other pathologies, to whom we are handing out free medications from the donations that are sent to us," he states.

Source: Granma Internacional