From Arctic to Iraq, readers show their love

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 11, 2002

Our mailbag this week includes letters from a nurse in the High Arctic and a physician in Iraq. But first, this note from a wellness facilitator at Morley who was deeply moved by Bob Bartlett's reminiscences two weeks ago over the late Stoney Nakoda Grand Chief Frank Kaquitts:

WARREN AND BOB, thank you both for sharing your precious memories of Frank Kaquitts. Your column "One last mountain journey with Sitting Wind" captured the spirit, the insight and the wisdom of a unique man and allowed me to embrace a very special moment. You have given your readers a brief glimpse into the rich heritage which lives within the hearts of all Stoney people.

—Joey Lougheed, Morley

IT SEEMS that several of our loyal coffee companions are personally committed to wellness and health on a global scale. Adele Dyall, who makes Cochrane her home when not hobnobbing with polar bears, sent the following note in response to last week's column on the Rotarian initiative to eradicate polio:

HI WARREN, a timely story. I am going on one of the polio eradication assignments in February. There are seven teams going on this three-month mission to countries such as Angola, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Nepal. I have been selected to go to Tanzania, which is in Eastern Africa bordering Kenya, Mozambique and the Indian Ocean. The mission is a combined polio/measles campaign, as those diseases are still common in that part of the world.

To say that I am excited to be going on one of these campaigns is an understatement. If anyone had told me when I entered nursing (eons ago) about the opportunities out there for nurses, I would never have imagined them in my wildest dreams.

—Adele Dyall, Paulatuk, N.W.T.

OUR FINAL contribution is from a physician who truly believes the health of children must have priority over petroleum and weapons.

Dr. David Swann was fired as provincial health officer for Palliser Health Region in Southern Alberta earlier this fall for speaking out on environmental issues impacting health. After massive public outcry, the president of the Society of Alberta Medical Officers of Health was offered his job back. He declined the offer and set his physician's heart instead on bringing help and hope to poor children in Iraq, the most vulnerable civilians, by the rivers of Babylon.

David left for Iraq mid-November, affiliated with Medecins du Monde and Physicians for Global Survival. Within days of his arrival in this once-prosperous country, he was struck by the social devastation he encountered. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail sent from Baghdad:

WE a district called Joomouriya to find a family referred to us...and saw a most disturbing part of Basra – sewage in the streets, children playing in bare feet amidst the garbage, dogs and flies; holes and debris such as to make it impossible for our driver to go on some streets.

By word of mouth we found the home of this woman, whose son Haman had been killed by a US bomber just two years ago and whose other son Haidar, about eight years old, had lost half of his left hand from the bomb. This was now well-healed but needed further reconstruction and we offered to assist....

The family was obviously touched by our concern and visit but it was we who felt humbled by the conditions they endured....

The sanctions, introduced after the 1991 Gulf War, have destroyed the Iraqi economy and cost the lives of over 1.5 million Iraqis from poverty, contaminated environments, lack of medical care and often, despair....

Everywhere we have met Iraqis who express bitter feelings...about sanctions and likely war. "Why do they hate us so much?" is a recurrent question from taxi drivers to college students to physicians.

—David Swann, M.D., Baghdad, Iraq

A DISTURBING question as we enter this season of love, joy and peace.

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page