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Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010


Haiti dispatch; an ARK defense

Japan resident Nithiananthan Veeravagu is working in Haiti for the NGO Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (www.amdainternational.com):

There was an aftershock this morning, but the area I am in, St. Marc, is fine. I make day trips to Port-au-Prince and head back to St. Marc at nighttime.

We are working at the local hospital, St. Nicolas. It's amazing what we found in storage at the hospital. They had all these pieces of equipment for operations, but the admin people had no idea at all they were there until we tried to clean up to accommodate more patients. We found a very, very old X-ray machine in the corner, and guess what? When we turned it on, voila! It works, although the pictures come out looking like cells of movies from the 1900s.

Everywhere I go there is an American presence now. A U.S. Navy ship just docked here with more than 500 medical staff and other rescue workers, and I believe it also has thousands of beds on board.

Conditions are pretty horrifying, and we are very short of surgeons, and due to delays in operating and delays getting to the hospital, a lot of patients end up going through amputations. Amazing . . . it could so easily be avoided. Yesterday a 23-year-old man died on the operating table. The injuries were too much for him.

Please let me know if you have friends who can come to help in such situations in the future. The key point is to get to the area as quickly as possible, although I know it's hard for surgeons and doctors to leave their positions at such short notice.

I am in desperate need of orthopedic and trauma surgeons, anesthetists and specialist nurses, etc. These are always needed in cases of earthquakes, tsunami and other huge disasters.

Every day, delays can mean life or death for people — that's the reality. I see so many amputations that could have been easily avoided if only I could get hold of orthopedic surgeons, or if the patients could receive an immediate medical assessment. I cannot ignore the feeling of failure, but, after all, we are all humans and we do have limits.


ARK work hardly 'colonial'

First of all, thank you for writing about the issue of animal welfare in Japan (Zeit Gist, Dec. 29), which really matters to me.

I sometimes do volunteer work for Animal Refuge Kansai, and I certainly wouldn't say that ARK — and volunteering for them — is "colonial." For me, ARK offers me opportunities to do something to make a difference and to meet like-minded people. Before I came to help ARK, I was so depressed and disappointed with the ways in which animals are treated that I stayed away from talking about pets and animals, despite my love for them and having lived with dogs for so many years since my childhood. Now I talk about it and try to let people around me about the issue because I know that there are ways to help them and we all can be a part of it. Yes, it's empowering rather than being "culturally colonized."

At the same time, however, it could be seen as "colonial" if foreign journalists and press only focus only on animal welfare organizations led by foreign residents. There are Japanese-led organizations and volunteer groups trying to improve the situation, too. It would be great if you could write about these, too.

After all, it is not about where the founder comes from, but about the efforts and will to make this society a better place for living things, whether they be two-legged, four-legged or winged.


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