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#2157: Air Force Medics Help Haitians (fwd)
Air Force Medics Help Haitians _____By Michael Norton
Associated Press Writer Friday, Feb. 4, 2000; 2:34 p.m. EST
CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti –– When they pulled in last month, the 120 U.S.
Air Force engineers and National Guard medics were armed enough
to spur a worried buzz that the Americans had invaded again. But
these reservists have a different mission: to provide much needed
medical and humanitarian services. This week, dozens of bedraggled
people gathered outside the Baptist Church of Christ, waiting to be
treated by National Guard medics at a makeshift clinic. Jeunisse
Dorsin, 19, cuddled 4-month-old Isaac Evenson. Both suffered from a
virulent skin irritation and the baby was too weak to even suckle.
"There's nowhere else to go for care," the young mother said. "I don't
have the money." Next door, some 30 Air Force engineers were laying the
foundations of a new four-room dormitory for an orphanage. U.S. troops
will rewire the electrical system, extend the dining area and build a
latrine. The 10-week humanitarian mission is all that remains of a
once-mighty U.S. presence that began five years ago, when 20,000
U.S. troops led an intervention to kick out military dictators and
restore elected rulers to Haiti. In 1996, the peacekeeping mission was
converted into a humanitarian one in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
That mission – which wound down last month – provided 138,000
people with medical treatment, distributed more than 85 tons of
donated goods and clothing, repaired and drilled scores of water
wells, built or repaired 50 schools, and constructed or repaired roads,a
bridge and a boat ramp. The mission in Cap-Haitien, an impoverished town
on the north coast, is part of a series of rotating, short-term
humanitarian efforts staffed by a mix of reservists and active-duty
soldiers. "We're trying to incorporate Haiti in our New Horizons
program, the same as elsewhere in Latin America," said the camp
commander, Air Force Maj. Carl Jerrett, 36, of Havelock, N.C.
Those currently assigned to Cap-Haitien will leave by March. From
May to October, other troops will repair and renovate Justinien
Hospital in Cap-Haitien. After that, "if things go well, the military
will look to move on to Jacmel," on the south coast, said a spokeswoman,
Lt. Col. Lisa Bogdansky, 41, of North Salt Lake, Utah. "Life here
opens your eyes. The people are so poor and yet so friendly," said Kevin
Black, 36, of Colorado Springs, who took time off from nursing school to
volunteer for duty in Haiti. Although most local people seemed happy
enough to host the Americans, some were concerned by the emphasis on
security: 45 heavily armed army soldiers, there to protect their
colleagues,account for more than a third of mission members.
"It's a virtual occupation!" exclaimed electrician Ronald Pierre, 40.
"To do what they say they are going to do, they don't need weapons!"
But gradually the U.S. force has been accepted. "When we got here,
some people yelled unpleasant things," he said. "But now they're warming
up to us. They understand we're not an invasion force, that we're here