Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Disabled and Some Comparisons with Chile

Today's Lenten prayer focus is the disabled.

Last week I linked to this article, which says there may be 150,000 amputees in Haiti by year's end, or 2% of the entire Haitian population. This article uses the figure of 4,000, which would already be a high number. I think the higher number is more likely, but either way, this is going to be a huge problem in a society where survival is challenging enough for the able-bodied.

I have been on crutches in Port-au-Prince and I know it's not easy to get around that way; there's very little completely level ground and stairs are often uneven. That was pre-earthquake. And getting around is only one of the difficulties. There aren't jobs for people with all their limbs; how will people make a living when they are disabled? No wonder my friend told me on the phone that she and her family are happy to be alive and to have their arms and legs.

The second article above mentions, as do most of the articles, how courageous the Haitian patients are.

Hospital workers say they've rarely seen patients so stoic in the face of horrific loss and adversity. "We've created the phrase, 'Haitian up,'" says Dr. Justine Crowley, meaning "toughen up or buck up."

It's true that Haitians are incredibly strong and put up with more on a good day than most people in the developed world could handle. And yet I don't want anyone to interpret that fact by concluding that the people going through these terrible injuries and losses are somehow not feeling them. They are still suffering - just as much as you would. They have learned that there isn't much point whining about it, though. What's that going to change?

I am following news about the Chilean earthquake as well, of course. Someone at church this morning said that he feared the worldwide focus on the problems in Haiti would deprive Chile of help. I don't worry about that; it's a big world and there's enough aid for both countries. I don't think it's useful to frame it in terms of a contest. But I can't help but compare the situations in the two earthquakes. Here's an article that concludes that poverty is the real killer. The Chilean earthquake was 500 times as strong as the Haitian one, but when people live in buildings that are well-constructed and have access to immediate emergency services, they are much more likely to survive. And here's an NPR story which explains some of the geological factors that made the Haitian earthquake more destructive.

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