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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch "This country is not ready for an emergency" – Sean Penn in CNN Report

"This country is not ready for an emergency" – Sean Penn in CNN Report

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Monday, 10 May 2010 14:01
CNN reports on actor and aid worker Sean Penn’s efforts to save the life of a 15-year-old boy, Oriel, who contracted diphtheria – a story with a tragic end. The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”

CNN describes how Penn, founder of aid agency J/P Haitian Relief Organization who “has been helping manage 50,000 displaced Haitians living in the camp that sprouted on the nine-hole course at the capital's once-exclusive golf club”, has been frustrated by poor coordination, inefficiency, and seemingly unnecessary delays in treating the sick and vaccinating those vulnerable to disease:
Early on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had urged immediate vaccination against diphtheria and recommended having the antitoxin on hand.

Penn cannot comprehend why, with an abundance of aid agencies working in Haiti, prevention like this has to be so difficult. He is not one to shield his anger, or mince words. "If the boy were to die," he says, "this would be murder."
The report also covers Penn’s participation in a meeting of IDP camp managers:
"If you have a hospital with some medicines, you start treating the patients. You don't wait for the shelves to be full," he says.

Penn brings up the diphtheria case. He wants aid agencies to begin immediate vaccinations. UNICEF has plans to do just that, but has not started yet.
In reaction to the report, which suggested that a diphtheria epidemic was emerging, AP reported yesterday that World Health Organization officials said Oriel’s was “just an isolated case and there are no other cases," but that
concerns about the threat of infectious diseases breaking out across quake-ravaged areas is well-founded. Many of the 1.3 million people displaced by the magnitude-7 quake are living in squalid camps where infection can spread easily.

Tags: aid distribution | coordination | disease | medicine | UN

 

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