Thursday, July 29, 2010

Health Care and Adventures with the Lost Boys

This post comes to you without pictures, so dont be scrolling down to look for them...I am currently at the office and dont have my photos with me. So I have heard that I have a lot to update ya´ll about. I have now been in Colombia for 59 days and have been learning a lot about health care and about how you sometimes have to start your whole life over again. I ill try to fill you in on all the high points of the trip so far...
I got the opportunity to attend a conference on the armed conflict in colombia and the recruitment of children into this conflict. basically its invisible children: the latin american version...which is a lot more confusing and sad. well not more sad but just takes on a whole different context in the face of narcotrafficking and such. I attended this conference for 2 days..all of it in rapid-fire spanish and was the only gringa for miles. but it was cool, i learned a heck of a lot and generally understood everything (the spanish, not so much the context of the issue). It was realy interesting to hear what the international community is doing to condem the use of children in the conflict and to guarantee that the government and Constitutional Court are seeing whats going on. Interesting thing about colombia though....the government says that there is no armed conflict--that its terrorism. Its a lot easier to unite people from within if they think the threat is from the outside. Basically the armed conflict is recruiting kids between the ages of 12-16 in order to fight, carry supplies, trade drugs or are used for sexual purposes. Thanks to guns being smaller now though, they have started recruiting younger children. The whole thing is bastante complejo...(substantially complex)...i never really have answers when i think about it, and basically just find more questions. but one thing i do know...drugs have always been involved. the buying and selling of cocaine in colombia came before the conflict, continues during it, and will probably continue until every crop has been fumigated, leaving the beautiful land of colombia completely barren.
So after that conference, I started my interviews. I am really nervous about them because i want the information i get to be useful to someone. Its hard to get answers in this system as there are so many hoops to jump through to get info and ultimately to get health care. My question for the summer: Do those in a situation of internal displacement in Soacha get the attention they deserve in regards to health? My answer for the summer: no.

So as i was meeting someone to interview them, i ran across a health post in one of the barrios. I was like, well looky here, something very interesting. lets take a look. So i went inside and asked around and finally got to talk to on eof the nurses there. She explained the whole process and what they do. This 3 room building was responsible for the health of between 8 and 10 barrios....thats gotta be over 5000 people. They cant really do emergency care and they have to hop ethat they can stabilize the situation and perform first aid well enough that they can get the people to the hospital. They have no doctor in house, but they will be getting one in a few weeks. The equipment is not to standard and they do not have a computer...
I wasnt able to talk too much more about the conditions as i had to meet the woman for the interview, but i will be returning to the post for further questions and a more complete overview of the health care situation there.

My first interview. I met Jenny, a woman from a rural region of Colombia. I asked if she had a problem being filmed and she said that it made her uncomfortable because she basically lived in fear that someone from that region could find her and possibly kill her. Because, oh yeah, they already killed her husband...leaving her with 5 beautiful little girls, to raise alone. I asked her if she was being attended to in the health sector, and she just answered, no, I am not receiving attention. It was as simple as that. It doesnt matter what the government has said about health care rights or what anyone is trying to do to help, the simple answer is she doesnt have health care at all. like, at all. She does not have a card enrolling her in the system, so if she tries to go to a clinic, she will be denied. She said that she basically just has to pray that neither she nor her little girls falls sick. Thats her prevention....prayer. as much as i am a believer in the Lord and depend on him, as an almost nurse, that is unacceptable. She has a right to health care and this needs to be granted. Not only does she not live legally in her neighborhood, but she lives in a one room shack and sleeps in the same bed with her 5 girls. It takes one outbreak of something to sweep that whole family. And she lives close to a river which is every so slighty rising due to the ridiculous amount of rain that this winter has given Bogota. Is there hope? yes. theres always hope. But with this hope comes the hoops which must be jumped through to get any sort of health care access. I will explain the process later, and i am super sorry if none of this makes sense. Basically all i want to say is that the government has promised this vulnerable poppulation health care, but they arent getting it. If this was because of a natural disaster or an outside cause, i wouldnt be so adamant about this issue, but it is actually directly because of the failure of the government that 4.5 million people are currently displaced throughout Colombia.

I then went with a coworker to her program with the young people in Altos de la Florida. I tried to get there by myself and ended up about an hour late. awesome, but i do feel more confident in Soacha now, so i guess thats good. I was able to navigate my way through the barrio and eventually got there without too many stares. So the program was all about the situation of displacement and the phases of displacement. There are 4 phases:
1. urgency
2. emergency
3. stabilization
4 Return to original land or be stabilized in new city

So, in short the phases are about how you go from being vulnerable in a different city to reestablishing your home whether its in that city or back where you came from. So Carol first asked if any of the girls knew anyone who was displaced. they answered that they knew people, but none of them were. I was surprised, i thought we just worked with those who were in a situation of displacement. I later asked Carol why were were there with them today, and she asnwered that they were all in risk of becoming displaced. That is because Altos is a very poor community with a lot of gang activity and recruitment issues. They also are not a legal community and run the risk of being thrown out at any time...thats about 600 families without a place to live. Because of these economic issues, they more intently look to groups like the guerrillas or the paramilitaries for an outlet and some economic incentives. Thats why recruitment is such an issue. These people see that being in the illegal armed groups at least gives them a place to sleep, some food, and maybe some money. Its not a lot and it wont get them anywhere in the future, but some of these families dont have time to think about the future. So, Carol is there to inform them about these issues to say, if you become displaced, here are the steps you take. And she hopes that by telling these girls, they will tell their friends and family members and run less of a risk of being caught in gang activity or being recruited. the sad thing is that illegal...and legal armed groups are stationed IN the neighborhoods with full intention of recruiting impresionable children. Also its curious how every military base is placed next to or in the direct periphery of a school...strategery? i think so.

That afternoon, we went to meet a bunch of kids from the neighborhood to talk about their upcoming project--a show that wilk focus on the hip hop culture and to prove that they arent bandits or gang members and that graffiti can be art. So i go to see all of their graffiti. very cool. It was all really socially conscious and very pro life. This is because recently on eof the girls in the group was killed. I dont know the details but i know that it wasnt a peaceful death. So they have a memorial for her and are making this program for the cause of ending the violence. this is the same neighborhood where the Falsos Positivos occurred. If you dont know what that is, go to my blog or look it up, its worth noting.

My interviews are now in full swing and am findning similar problems as before. Problems with nutrition, problems with information, problems with money for transportation to the hospital and time to wait at these facilities. One woman came in complaining about the system and about how she hasnt been able to get any attention. I continued asking her questions and she revealed that she has been feeling sick recently. That she sometimes cant breathe and can hear her heartbeat in her ears. She also has a severe headache and with all this she feels like she cant do anything--that she has no desire to do anything but sleep. and when I aksed her what she did when this happens, she said she goes to sleep and drinks some water. Im no expert, but i know this is not healthy and points to severe respiratory and coronary issues. Good thing is she was able to get an appointment for august 3rd so if all goes accorfing to plan, I will be able to accompany her and ask the questions that need to be asked. Her last physician gave her medicine, but this medicine makes her feel awful and she´s not going to take something if it makes her feel awful, I know I wouldnt, so that hurts compliance. Hopefully together we can find something that makes her fel better. and maybe find medication that she can afford. Another problem that I have found is the prevention part. It is important that she change her lifestyle and her food intake, but how do I tell someone they need to eat better food, get more sleep, have less stress, live in a better environment and get more exercise when she has to work odd jobs and make a meager income just to have enough money so there is at least some food on the table?

Thats what Ill leave you with for now. Its a messy situation and its not always very pretty. I apologize that I dont have really cool stories right now. Well I guess I have one. I went to Villa de Leyva with all the jesuits ( I call them the Lost Boys) and our bus broke down on the way--of course on one of those windy roads which you could easily fall off at any time. We had to get out and walk and then the bus would meet us at the top of the hill because it couldnt hold us all. But we made it, and it was beautiful! Also I have fallen in love with JUAN VALDEZ, not only because theres coffee, but because they put arequipe at the bottom :) if you dont know what arequipe is, look it up, its worth noting. maybe if youre nice to me ill bring some back to the US.

If you were patient/ kind enough to read all of that I will reward you with 2 palabras del dia. thats right--2!!
1. chichi--as in the restaurant, yes. when you say tengo chichi it means ¨i have pee¨ the day i learned it, i heard a 3 year old say it, so i know its legit.
2. parchar--to hang out with your friends. ¨No quiero ir a Mexico, yo quiero parchar con mis amigos!!¨

Honestly, they dont make postcards here, but once I find someone to give me paper, youre getting one. I miss you all, I miss the United States. It sometimes gets pretty lonely here, so please continue praying for me and ill do the same.

Los amo,

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