July 12, 2011
Yesterday the day started with the nutritionist at IRD asking if I wanted to go to the nutrition center. I said yes, thinking it would be great to see how Lady was progressing and see what was going on there. I knew that there was some tension between the center and IRD lately –a case had gone poorly (a baby girl had died) and there is an ongoing investigation and the center was getting a lot of heat and they thought it was because of IRD. I didn’t know we were going to the center to hash it out. We got there and received a frosty reception (though I did get to see Lady and she is back to a healthy weight and eating like a fiend) and were ignored for 20 minutes. Then we went into an office, sat in a mini circle while the doctor and three other employees at the center chewed us out for 20 minutes. I thought it would only be a couple of minutes, but he kept going and going and he told us about how the center’s name was being dragged through the mud and how a mother had heard they had killed a child and wasn’t letting them take her child and how the doctor was being personally investigated. It was awkward and all we could do was sit there. I had some idea of the background, but did not know that it had gotten so bad for them and they had every right to be upset. Then the nutritionist talked and told the IRD side and showed documentation showing that IRD had not done anything improper and how IRD had also documented from the start that the center had not done anything wrong (they never even saw the girl because they couldn’t – she had developmental issues that they are not prepared to handle so we could not even refer the child to them). He also promised to support them in the investigation and made everyone feel like things were going to be okay because IRD and the Center had done nothing wrong – there were just a lot of rumors floating around that needed to be cleared up. It was pretty amazing to see the situation go from toxic to good in the 20 minutes the nutritionist talked. I was impressed. It is also interesting to see how the two organizations worked together to fix the issue. There was a lot of talk about lessons learned from this experience and a discussion about how to improve the relationship to keep something like this from happening again. In the end, the whole situation will make the both organizations a little smarter and ready if something like this happens again.
In the afternoon I went on some home visits with the IRD nurse. The first house was one of the houses built on sticks on the water. Walking out to the house we were warned that the plank path to the houses was wobbly. It was a gross understatement. I am a pretty confident person when it comes to walking on wobbly things, but the whole thing shook and swayed with every step. It seemed like the thing would collapse at any moment. It was lot more precarious than I had imagined. Then, the house would move slightly every time I took a step and all I kept thinking was that the water below was filthy. I looked for fish and didn’t see any – I figured I would see something because it is on the ocean, but there was nothing but trash and swimming kids. It’s hard to describe – well, not hard, it’s a terrible situation and I feel bad that anyone has to live in those conditions. I know that not everyone lives in the best situations and I have been to some poor houses, but there is nothing good about these houses. The only thing separating people from filthy water is a thin board. And it’s not just a few houses or one neighborhood in Tumaco, it is thousands of people, thousands of families and lots of kids.
We talked to the mother about nutrition and weighed her child and went to the third house of a woman with a malnourished child that we wanted to refer to the center. She was nervous and understandably did not want to give her child up for a month. We started to talk to her about how great the center was and I showed her pictures of Lady and the progress she made in two and a half weeks (it was really a hard sell) and we finally took her to the center to check it out. They were very happy to see us in the afternoon and were welcoming to the mother. She is taking her child there tomorrow and I know in less than a month she is going to be a lot healthier.
Last week I was riding with Richard in the truck and we were talking about our upcoming trip to Barbacoas. I have been looking forward to it because it’s a chance to drive into Colombia more and see something besides the coast. The trip to Ricaurte, though terrifying, only had me more excited. Richard was telling me that I shouldn’t tell anyone that I’m American, that on the trip I was going to be an Argentine because it might be unsafe as an American. I noted it, but didn’t take it too seriously. Then today, the boss in Tumaco told me that I wasn’t going to Barbacoas because it’s unsafe and there have been some kidnappings lately. Shoot.