Update from Bwa Nèf:
The Lamp’s primary and urgent care clinic is located in the Bwa Nèf section of the notorious Cité Soleil slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Even within Cité Soleil, the Bwa Nèf neighborhood is seen as a dangerous place. Unfortunately, this notoriety is not entirely undeserved. For the past six months, the gang that controls the area has been battling a gang from a neighboring area. There have been many deaths, including those of many innocent bystanders.
The Lamp did not choose to locate in this neighborhood because of its notoriety; it chose to do so because the residents are desperately poor, desperately in need of the services that we offer. The young men that make up the gangs do not represent the vast majority of the population. Still, working here requires an ongoing assessment of the security threat to our staff. In this case, we made the decision to provide services from an alternative location.
Luckily for us a marvelous community organization named Sakala provides programming for youth in a nearby area of Cité Soleil. In the past we provided one-day mobile clinics at Sakala, but now we asked if it was possible to use their facilities on a daily basis. Daniel Tillias, the director, readily agreed and fully supported our activities, even as the period of our stay grew longer and longer. It was, however, clearly a mutually beneficial arrangement: it was immediately evident that the people of his neighborhood were also in desperate need of health care. Our two doctors ended up seeing many more people than they would have in Bwa Nèf, several times seeing more than 50 persons (each!) in a single day.
Six weeks ago our Medical Director, Dr. Barrère Hyppolite made the decision to resume services at our health center in Bwa Nèf. It was our fourth effort to return – each previous time, we had been able to stay for only a day – but this time the staff was determined to remain. Our care for chronically ill patients, and our programs for women’s and children’s health had suffered and needed to be taken up again. We needed access to our x-ray and full laboratory facilities.
The situation remains tense but we are back where we belong!
The Lamp has been providing health services in Bwa Nèf since 2006. The past six months have been the most challenging in all of that time, but our staff have responded with a powerful affirmation of commitment. This is our chosen work and we will continue to find ways to accomplish it.