Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Haiti, Cholera, Water, and a Crisis

With the cholera outbreak making itself known in the streets and slums of Haiti, we are again reminded how those of us living in various industrialized nations take sanitation, health, clean water, and access to proper medical care for granted.

Here in the United States, an outbreak of cholera would be as unlikely as a massive epidemic of bubonic plague. But in the case of Haiti, deplorable conditions pre-dating the relatively recent earthquake have created a situation wherein otherwise preventable diseases can spread rapidly and dangerously from rural to urban areas (and back again) in a matter of days.

In the Western Hemisphere, Haiti remains a symbol of failed economic policies, illegal coups, and inappropriate interventions by the United States and other global bodies who have crippled this poor nation and left its citizens lagging behind as the poorest country in this half of the world, with the majority of its 9 million citizens living below the poverty level.

International aid organizations, many of whom have had boots on the Haitian ground for decades, are now scrambling to provide education, outreach and improved sanitation in order to head off an outbreak that has already killed hundreds and could very well kill thousands if the tide is not quickly stemmed. Some groups, like Doctors Without Borders, are building makeshift cholera clinics, and others are distributing chlorine tablets for the purification of water and oral rehydration fluids for those at risk of dehydration in the absence of clean drinking water.

Newly living in the American Southwest, I’ve recently been learning how contentious an issue water has become in the 21st century. Native American tribes have been forced to utilize the courts in order to gain access to water to which they previously had the rights for generations, and just a few weeks ago, bloggers worldwide participated in Blog Action Day, this year focusing their attention on water as a global issue of critical importance.

In Haiti, an economically crippled country was only recently brought to its knees by a massive earthquake that left more than a million homeless Haitians living in various tent cities as they await a more permanent housing solution. According to reports, sanitation and hygiene is actually worse in the urban slums, where water used for drinking and washing is contaminated with fecal matter, proliferating the spread of diseases such as cholera.

As some of us here in the Southwest argue over how many rain barrels we can afford to buy in order to have enough water to irrigate our decorative gardens, millions of Haitians long for the opportunity to simply have sufficient water to provide proper sanitation, healthy hydration, clean and hygienic clothing, and irrigation for life-sustaining crops.

In this world of plenty, Haiti’s current state is a sign that the priorities of the human race are tragically askew. Meanwhile, the conspicuous consumption and epidemic obesity of those of us in the industrialized world only further illustrate our loss of a collective vision of how life should be for all.

Haiti needs our assistance, our empowerment, and our generosity. And we can only hope that, given time and adequate resources, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere will one day be relatively free of disease, poverty, and the misguided geopolitical interventions of those who have only sought to exploit her.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nursing Shortage Infographic

This infographic on the current nursing shortage was sent to me via an online connection who requested that this information be shared with the readers of Digital Doorway. Please note that I did not create this infographic and cannot vouch for the figures quoted within it, but feel that it is worth sharing as interesting food for thought and discussion.


Solving the Nursing Shortage Crisis

Friday, October 15, 2010

Global Handwashing Day and Blog Action Day

Today, October 15th, marks the first ever Global Handwashing Day (being celebrated in more than 70 countries around the world) and the fourth annual Blog Action Day, wherein bloggers from around the world post about a single topic of global interest, and this year's topic is water.

Every day, more than 5,000 children die from diarrhea, and this is largely due to lack of access to clean water and soap with which to practice hand hygiene. And over all, 42,000 people die every week from lack of access to clean water. With more than a billion people worldwide (that's one in eight human beings) lacking access to clean water, the proportions of this issue are staggering and the implications for public health, disease management, economic development, food production and simple survival are staggering.

From the dual perspectives of Blog Action Day's theme of water and Global Handwashing Day's emphasis on clean water to facilitate handwashing and the prevention of disease, there is a natural symbiosis. With drought and desertification becoming an increasing global problem, action is needed on all fronts to combat this issue and turn the tide, so to speak, on the global water crisis.

Here is the Blog Action Day YouTube video which is well worth watching for a quick synopsis of the movement's mission:

And please watch this video from The World Bank, and feel free to visit the Global Handwashing Day website to get involved.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Grateful Kiss

The stroke robbed her of the powers of speech, and walking is still a struggle as well. Previously a vibrant and gregarious professional and mother of two, she has now been waging a nine-year battle to simply express herself in a world devoid of her voice.

Her husband dotes on her with devotion and love, and though they both tire of the struggle from time to time, there is nothing to do but continue.

Although she cries every few days, most likely out of frustration, her smile can still light up a room, and her eyes sparkle with a keen intelligence and wit that she simply cannot express with language.

I have visited three or four times now to check on her and the assistance that the home health aides provide, and our connection becomes sweeter with each visit. At first, I would hold her hand as I talked with her, looking into her eyes, making as much contact as possible, always talking to her rather than talking about her in the third person. Her husband, standing nearby, observes our interactions and obviously approves.

This past week, I felt a compelling urge to give her a hug as I prepared to leave after a brief visit, and she made it very clear that only a kiss would do. Surprisingly, she kissed me on the cheek with gusto, hugging me tightly with her good arm, and as she let go, she beamed me a smile that would melt the coldest heart. It was one of those moments in life, and the gratitude and love in her eyes is something I will always remember.

This courageous woman and her husband daily continue the work of recovering the functions that were lost when the massive stroke tore through her body like a bolt of unfortunate lightning. Locked in her brain and unable to verbally communicate the feelings and thoughts that swirl in her mind, her deep hazel eyes still well with emotion, and she does indeed communicate in myriad ways.

Visiting this lovely woman and her husband is a pleasure, and on this particular day, she bestowed on me the gift of unabashed affection with a simple kiss and hug, and I left their cozy home radiant with delight and gratitude for the reward of being the nurse for such a courageous and wonderful woman.