July 31, 2011
“Gutting It Out” in Haiti – Dr. Paul Farmer and Ray Suarez on PBS News Hour

Jordan Nader, American Construction Volunteer in Mirebalais, Haiti



Disasters typically breed quixotic, momentary interest and intervention, a global Attention Deficit Disaster Disorder as Dr. Paul Farmer discussed with Ray Suarez on the PBS News Hour. Rather, massive disasters require a prolonged investment of attention, resources, and true guts, seen no more clearly than in the complex rebuilding of Haiti.


Discussing his new book Haiti:  After the Earthquake on July 28, Farmer reflected:

“I think part of what we feared would happen, that there would be a transient interest in reconstruction, that has — that has happened. There are also some people who and institutions who have been committed and are still involved in rebuilding. But this attention-deficit disorder that we see on a global level has — has not been good for Haiti.


“What we feared back in January right after the quake, that there would be some groups that would come in and out, and part of what has been called the crisis caravan, that all came to pass. They have come in. They’re gone.


“But there are some new players. I just am thinking about some of those who have been involved in medical education and helping to rebuild infrastructure for medical education. We have got some new partners in, universities, physician groups, nursing groups, that have — are planning to stick with us, I think, over the long haul.


Dr. Farmer went on to describe the new National Teaching Hospital in Mirebalais, “a giant hospital, (which) is due to come online or start to come online just two years after the quake. So I think we can say, look, you can get stuff done in Haiti. You work with Haitian colleagues and public health authorities, you can get things done.  But it does require, as you say, just gutting it out, you know, sticking with it and not being discouraged.”


I tend to think that Dr. Farmer had these true-grit people in mind who are executing the project:  Dr. David Walton, PIH Senior Advisor for Health and Medical Infrastructure; my husband, Jim Ansara; hundreds of Haitian masons and laborers; and scores of American construction volunteers; as well as the intrepid donors behind them. They are just “gutting it out,” and will never give up until Haiti has the flagship teaching hospital her people deserve.  


For weekly updates on the progress on the National Teaching Hospital see the Partners in Health blog.   The project is now actively seeking skilled volunteer tradespeople from overseas to work alongside and train Haitian workers.  Most needed are carpenters, electricians, plumbers, medical equipment installers, bio-medical technicians and metal workers.  See:  http://www.pih.org/blog/entry/mirebalais-milestone-and-volunteer-request/ and a profile of an American volunteer, Jordan Nader at http://www.pih.org/blog/entry/our-partner-in-health-jordan-nader/.


For the full transcript of the PBS News Hour interview see: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/july-dec11/paulfarmer_07-28.html