Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In the past I’ve hinted (maybe at times stated more explicitly) my thoughts about the United Nations, specifically the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). I’ve also talked about the International Organization for Migration (IOM). I don’t think too highly of either of them, and when I hear of people speak of the UN in such reverential tones, it’s seriously not hard to laugh and have milk shoot out my nose (OK, it would more likely be beer). And actually, even making a joke at this time about either of those organizations isn’t even funny to me. (I want to go back and delete the milk/beer out of nose comment, and I could easily do it because this is on computer and not in stone – but I’m leaving it.) The overhead, the red tape, the ineptness, the blah blah blah that they practice speaks volumes, but isn’t heard by anyone but those who suffer at their hands as a result. Morris is one of those. He needed surgery months ago. Since then I’ve been watching my friend wither away. We wrote letters to and emailed the UN and the IOM headquarters in Geneva and locally. We wrote and emailed Amnesty International, BBC and the New York Times. The only response we’ve received is from Amnesty International saying that this isn’t the kind of human rights issue they deal with. (Hmmm. Is that because it could stir up some controversies and problems in how these organizations which are to handle and defend human rights actually deal with the humans whose rights they are to defend and handle? Hmmm. Morris is not the only one whose life is being played with this way.) Lately he’s been vomiting regularly. He’s skin and bones. He frequently can’t even make the walk to the clinic on the camp for the doctor to review his situation. Everyone is waiting for the UN to get off their asses and take some action to save a life. They have policies that refugees should get the same treatment as local citizens. Fine, but the situation is different. Local citizens have their support network still in place. They can legally work. They have their families and communities to turn to. Refugees don't have these supports. I worry that he is another preventable death we are watching. The clinic doesn’t have enough money to run the ambulance as needed (because the UN has cut their budget by 2/3 of what it used to be – and this is a whole other story of how the UN, in an effort to encourage Liberians to return to a country to which many of them still do not feel safe to return and to which the infrastructure is not yet ready to support such an influx of returning Liberians, has cut assistance to health care on the camp – and to education – so that the children and others who are sick or weak and are at the mercy of the decisions their families make will have a more difficult time receiving health care and/or becoming educated and maybe qualified to do something in the rebuilding of their country). The ambulance has certain days when it takes patients to the main hospital in Accra. Outside of those days, whether fuel can be paid for the ambulance to go to the hospital or not could mean taking money from someone else who is in need of treatment that could be given on the camp. The administration of the clinic (headed by a French SMA lay missionary – see their blog site’s link to the right) needs to decide which way to spend their very limited funds. Morris is my friend. And I understand the financial situation of the clinic. So, I’m thankful that I was able to use the vehicle donated for my work to help get Morris to the hospital in Accra to see the doctors who had handled his case while he was on the 3-month admission. Currently, his right lung is no longer functioning (it’s a big, ominous white space in the x- ray) because it’s so filled with the fluid. I wanted to ask the doctor if it’ll spread to the left lung, too, but instead let my own fear (of a response about which I’ll be able to do nothing) intimidate me. He is in urgent need of a CT scan (around $200), which will then help the doctors to perform their surgery (quoted at $3,000). And we are waiting to hear from the UNHCR about what value they place on Morris’ life. Thanks to some open donations, I’m able to continue helping Morris with a little extra for upkeep, including some flavored milks he enjoys – the look of pleasure on his face when I can find the milk and bring it to him always gives hope.

I wrote this last week, the night after I got home from the hospital. We heard this week that the UN will pay for the CT scan, but aren't ready for the surgery yet. So, today Morris was able to get in for the CT, and now he'll probably need to take it back to the main doctors for his case. And then we'll see - last week the doctor was speculating they will want to readmit him and start preparing for the surgery. I don't think it'll be as easy as that, unfortunately.


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