Soldiering on in Haiti

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When one lives inside the circumstances of a semi-permanent emergency, the skill of soldiering on with a smile is a survival necessity. Daily life in the medical/health clinic and malaria ward in Cazale, Haiti is generally cheerful and energetic, the fruit of a long term internal – fixed discipline of hard work, optimism and deep reliance on God for sustained physical and emotional support. Not only is the immediate medical work load unrelenting and punctuated with occasional tragedies but the larger health conditions in the nation are not exactly encouraging. Discouragement is a stalking enemy that must be kept at a safe distance.

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In a recent Letter of Appreciation to Abandoned Children’s Fund for a Cash Grant to the Cholera Treatment Center the center director Lori wrote “We have been caring for cholera patients since November 9, 2010. We worked out of a 10 person tent for the first 3 1/2 days. Then, we moved into a home that was donated for caring for these patients. Since March 10, 2013 when we opened the doors of the new Cholera Treatment Center or CTC, we have received 7,843 patients with the sickness, from 813 villages. They have ranged in age from 8 days to 110 years old. There have 22 deaths and all but one has been buried in an area on our land that is far from the river or water source. There have been 164 repeat patients. I think there have been 4 that have had cholera three times. There are 28 people employed currently and their income help support around 225 people. The most IV fluids that any one patient received, during their stay, was 84 liters. There have been 16 babies born to moms that have had cholera. The most inpatients we have had at once that was 120 people. There has been a combined total of 18 hours during these three years that we have not had any inpatients.

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The constant war against the scourge of Cholera might be promising if viewed over a ten year period but there are weeks when the numbers of incoming Cholera patients swells and it appears that hard won ground is being lost and must be regained with many additional hours of work and care, just to get back to just being full.

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The General Health Clinic caters to a wide range of health and medical challenges but the unrelenting front line of the battle is the life and death struggle against malnourishment and starvation, particularly among children who need intensive care to nurse them back from the threshold of death with specialized nutritional products.  There is constant carousel of children suffering Kwashiorkor (a severe form of malnutrition) coming into the pediatric intensive care unit, receiving the tender mercies of life giving medical care and returning back to health and eventually to their families.

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Though the work load is usually manageable it’s only by dint of long hours and lots of volunteers who give valiantly to the effort. The heat at times is draining and the constant exposure to the pain and suffering of children and disease, even though you’re engaged in the team work of healing it, is wearing.

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For the thousands of people who live in this rural district and the surrounding mountain communities, these clinics are the only health care they ever receive and the lifeline that saves their children when the ever present food shortages and hunger among the population, descends into malnourishment and then starvation.

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There are many facets of living and serving that comprise daily life in Cazale beyond raising families, teaching local citizens the principles of healthful living, providing reading/literacy classes and bible study groups to promote the spiritual life and health of the community. One of the facts of life that grew out of integrating with the local community is the many women and children (many of whom over the years were survivors of health challenges in the clinic) who are among the poorest of the poor and desperately needed the support of some food to keep them from slipping back again into starvation.

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There are at present more than 100 families, mostly widows and children, who are being assisted with regular donations of food and water. For these at risk families, if there were no help obtaining food, there would be no future, no hope and no life. Abandoned Children’s Fund decided after conversations about how to best support the bare survival necessities of these families to send cash to be used to purchase local bulk quantities of rice, beans and oil and distribute it to these families according to their need.

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Nothing is taken for granted in there crisis circumstances in Cazale. The pace of life is day by day unless another dire emergency pushes the community to an hour by hour dependence. But while these hardships are being endured, there is an abiding cloud of peace and joy and healing love that permeates the attitudes of all involved. The smile of the soldiering healer is in every eye.

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