Bureaucracy’s Death Blow

  • Posted on: 14 June 2006
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

Palace Whether it’s the workings on Capital Hill, applying for a permit or working in international development, very few people have something good to say about the level of bureaucracy that envelope these activities. (If you’ve worked in international development and have not experienced the headaches of bureaucracy, please let me know, and then write a book explaining how you accomplished this feat). Now, that is not to say that bureaucracy doesn’t serve a purpose, because it does. It ensures that all T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, which 9 out of 10 times is a pretty good thing. But what happens when bureaucracy becomes the ‘mother’ of all headaches?

Every year, dozens of hospitals and physicians donate their resources and time to provide life-saving surgery to countless individuals who can either not afford it or the procedures are not available. Haiti Innovation has recently teamed up with Rainbows Babies and Children’s Hospital, Partners in Health and United States Senator Mike DeWine to try and provide life-saving, heart surgery to an 11-year old, Haitian girl, Elda. Elda, who is from the town of Thomonde, was diagnosed by Partners in Health with failing heart valves, the surgery for which to fix the problem is not available in Haiti. Elda’s case is not unique, but thanks to a generous donation by Rainbows Babies and Children’s Hospital Elda can have the surgery she needs to receive a brand new lease on life. But for the last three months, bureaucracy has kept Elda in Haiti.

So here’s where we are. There is a young girl in Haiti who needs life saving heart surgery, there is a hospital and surgeon in the United States willing to do the surgery for free, an organization in Haiti willing to facilitate the entire pre and post surgery activities and another organization willing to help with all of the logistics during Elda’s visit to the States. And still Elda waits in Haiti, her condition worsening by the day.

So what had kept Elda in Haiti? She doesn’t have a birth certificate, and without that she can not apply for a visa. Like many rural Haitians, Elda was not provided a birth certificate upon her birth (really not that rare among rural Haitians), and trying to ascertain one at this time is proving arduous and extremely frustrating. Now while I would not advocate relaxing our policies for allowing people of foreign nationality into our country, it does piss me off that a situation like this can occur. For once it is not money, time or any of the other ‘usual’ lack of resources that is keeping this surgery from happening, but a single piece of paper that keeps Elda in Haiti.

Right now it seems that all we can do is wait, but are there any alternatives that we can recommend to policy makers to ensure that situations like Eldas (rare as they may be) do not happen again. I don’t know if I have an answer, but it does seem odd that for a couple thousand you can get an accused arsonist, sexual offender or robber out of jail before his/her trial, but you can’t get an 11-year old girl out of Haiti for a few weeks to have life-saving surgery. Apparently there are some things I will never understand.

If you would like to help bring Elda or children like her the States for life-saving surgery, please contact me at chris(at)haitiinnovaiton.org or 202-276-1015.

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