Gabriel Garcia Salyano is a community organizer and physician at PIH's supported project EAPSEC in Chiapas, Mexico. He recently joined a group delegation to PIH sites in Haiti to learn more about how the PIH approach is implemented elsewhere and to share his experiences. The following is a reflection from that trip.
We arrive at a clinic, which in reality is more like a hospital without walls, laid out in the shade of a few apartment buildings that remain standing in an esplanade.
Long lines of people are waiting for medical attention. Women, children, older men, all endure standing until the moment they can be seen by the medical staff in improvised examining rooms. Perhaps what helps them to endure the wait is the certainty that they will be cared for with respect and receive the medicines that they need.
Further down, between various merchants peddling their wares, we come to the laboratory, where blood, urine, typhoid, HIV and other tests are conducted. Facing this, in rooms constructed with sheets of plywood and tarp, are places that provide care for women, care for malnourished children, a space for psychological support, and the pharmacy.
Our guide is a Haitian doctor who leads a team of 16 staff who are charged with providing care to 7,000 people.
“And what are the people sick from?” someone asks. While the doctor recites the list of conditions, I respond to myself, “From injustice and neglect!”
At the close of the visit, we learn that this young, 29-year-old doctor, is a graduate of the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (The Latin American Medical School); proof that Cuba has stood with Haiti since even before the earthquake.
We then head to the Dadadou camp, and pass through streets littered with destroyed homes. One house in particular caught my attention. It is built of material that seems to dance, because it is whole, unbroken, not even the glass has shattered, but it lists at such an angle that the roof is nearly a wall and the wall is almost the roof. It looks as if it’s just resting on its neighbor, a small home made of wood and tin.
The streets of the city, at one time paved, now appear the perfect environment for the brand new 4x4 vehicles of humanitarian NGOs. The acronyms freshly painted on their sides almost proclaim to the streets that they are here to practice “humanitarian colonialism.”
We are struck by how the UN installations are surrounded by a fence topped with rolls of razor wire and guard towers.
The Dadadou camp is located on what was a sport stadium. The floor, where thousands of people have slept each night for the last nine months, is flat, synthetic grass. But it is strange to see the bright green streaks of the turf running between the monotonous gray and blue tarps.
The staff in charge of the Dadadou clinic shows us the different services that they provide to the camp residents, from waiting areas, to medical consult rooms that may lack walls, but retain respect. The psychological support services are designed to be collective. The staff who monitor nutritional status of girls and boys are surrounded by scales, measuring tape, and food supplements, as well as great regard and pride for the work they are doing for their people.