‘The Worst I’ve Ever Seen’: One Persistent Nurse’s Take on Somalian Refugee Situation

By Shawn Kennedy, editor-in-chief

Gerry Martone is a nurse who has traveled to the far reaches of the world in his job as director of humanitarian resources at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). We ran a profile of Gerry in 2001 and also a photo essay. He’s also a skilled photographer and we’ve published his photo essays documenting his travels. (See here for one on assessing poverty in Afghanistan and here for one on Sudan refugees; click through to PDF versions for best viewing.)

So when I spoke with Gerry last week, shortly after he came back from a visit to a refugee camp in Kenya, it scared me when he said the situation in East Africa is the worst thing he’s ever seen. The region is plagued by a severe drought (Martone says it’s had no appreciable rain in two years), and while drought is a cyclical phenomenon there,  a struggling central government, lack of health and response systems, and ongoing  conflicts among local clans have worsened the situation, causing widespread food shortages. The global community is responding with aid, but for many, it will be too late.

He visited a UN camp outside the city of Dadaab, Kenya, to which more than 440,000 displaced people—mostly Somalians, who are the hardest hit—have fled. The IRC runs a hospital at the camp. The situation is dire: the UN estimates that, […]

September 20th, 2011|Nursing|14 Comments

Praise for Haiti Nurse Volunteers–And a Word of Caution

Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, interim editor-in-chief

As has happened many times before, nurses have stepped up to the plate in volunteering their services in the wake of the devastating Haitian earthquake. The California Nurses Association reported several days ago on its Web site that nearly 7,500 nurses had responded to a call by National Nurses United for volunteers. Nurses are also integral in the ranks of Médecins Sans Frontières , the International Rescue Committee, federal disaster response teams, and of course the American Red Cross.

What nurses should not do is take it upon themselves to fly to Haiti without being connected to an organized disaster group. Independent volunteers can create more problems and end up becoming consumers of disaster services instead of providers. As we noted in an AJN news article shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, “Because of the potential for injuries on site and subsequent health problems and stress syndromes, it’s essential that personnel location and hours spent at the scene be carefully monitored. Proper disaster management safeguards the lives of both victims and rescuers.”

Many first responders to the September 11 attacks subsequently developed respiratory problems; many suffered from depression. Many of these people had access to health care and counseling because they were monitored and registered and periodically assessed for postevent sequelae. But there were many “ad hoc” volunteers, who just showed up, without equipment, disaster training, or support. One wonders how many of these laudable volunteers […]

January 21st, 2010|Nursing|5 Comments