Monday, February 22, 2010
For the last six months, I have been doing some research into the lives of those who were U.S. Prisoners of War in the Philippines during World War II. Many of them were survivors of the notorious Bataan Death March. They were subjected to starvation and malnutrition and the vitamin-deficiency diseases these conditions produce, including beriberi, scurvy and pellagra. Drinking dirty water led to dysentery. They were plagued by malaria, diphtheria outbreaks, and skin disorders. Their living conditions were substandard. As the United States concentrated on the European theater, they felt forgotten and abandoned. Some of them lost hope of ever being freed though for others, it was hope that kept them alive.
Their are obvious differences, but as I continue to read about these brave and resilient men, I am reminded of the Haitians. Not all of their problems are the same, but the Haitians suffer from many of the same hardships that the American POWs did. Even before the earthquake, parts of Haiti reminded me of POW camps. Poor Haitians are trapped in Haiti; other countries don't want them. Sometimes they sneak across the border and work as illegals in the Dominican Republic or take to the ocean in their makeshift boats. Once in awhile, a U.S. POW would escape.
I think for a long time, Haiti was a forgotten place, its people's sufferings unknown to others or ignored. At least for awhile, that has changed. And like the U.S. POWs, the Haitians don't give up. But also like the POWs, they need help. Let's give it to them in full measure.
The above picture was taken by Port-au-Prince resident Karen Bultje.