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Haitians Who Lost Limbs in 2010 Quake Get Help from Disabled Workers

Wilfrid Macena was a welder who built gas station tanks for a living when the devastating 2010 earthquake toppled a wall

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Workers, Haitians, Limbs
FILE - Amputee and prosthetic technician Wilfrid Macena leans against a tree in his yard as he looks at his smart phone, in Carrefour, Haiti, June 5, 2019. VOA

Wilfrid Macena was a welder who built gas station tanks for a living when the devastating 2010 earthquake toppled a wall at the garage where he worked and crushed his right leg.

He was unable to reach a hospital for seven days and his knee became infected, forcing doctors to amputate most of his leg. Several weeks later, he came to an institution run by Haiti’s Episcopal Church in downtown Port-au-Prince where a small group of disabled workers were fitting victims with prosthetics and received his first artificial leg.

“It’s like I got a brand new life,” he recalled, adding that one of the workers at St. Vincent’s Center convinced him to join their team, assuring him that it was similar to welding.

In July 2010, six months after the earthquake, he built his first prosthetic — a job that took him three days.

Workers, Haitians, Limbs
Prosthetic technician Wilfrid Macena works in a workshop at the St. Vincent’s Center, an institution run by Haiti’s Episcopal Church in downtown Port-au-Prince, June 4, 2019. VOA

Now, nine years and more than 3,000 prosthetics later, he’s still at it, and it takes only four hours. Most of those have gone to people like him who lost a limb in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake estimated to have killed 300,000 or more.

“We’re still seeing new patients,” he said, adding that an elderly woman who lost both legs in the earthquake recently came by the center. “She wants to move, go to church.”

The workers at St. Vincent’s Center were all taught by 60-year-old Emmanuel Celicourt, who is unable to speak and has been working at the center for decades. Overall, they have made some 8,000 prostheses since the quake, although now only about 15 percent of people seeking help are earthquake victims.

Macena said being an amputee helps him relate to patients and inspires confidence in them.

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“People understand me better than someone who has two legs,” said Macena, who also is captain of a soccer team and has taught athletes how to play with crutches.

He recently tended to Natasha Guillaume, a 9-year-old girl who needed a brace after she was pushed at school, fell and injured her leg. He helped lift her onto a bed fitted with a sheet of faded yellow flowers as she grimaced.

“I was crying at night because of the pain,” she said, adding that she wants to be able to run again with her friends.

Workers, Haitians, Limbs
Technicians Cereste Cherisme, right, and Jules Emmanuel, chat during their shift at the workshop in St. Vincent’s Center in Port-au-Prince, May 22, 2019. VOA

The center first began providing prostheses in the 1950s, sometimes at no cost depending on the needs of a person, said the Rev. Frantz Cole, spiritual director of the center that operates a school for disabled children, a medical clinic and a brace shop where the prostheses are made.

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“We try to provide service mostly to those who have nothing,” he said. “When someone gets amputated, he thinks that is the end of his life. … But [a prosthesis] is like a new beginning for a patient.” (VOA)

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Supreme Court Expresses Concern For Not Providing Protective Gear To Workers

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over existence of untouchability and caste discrimination despite 70 years of Independence

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Sewer, Workers, Untouchable, SC, India
Justice Arun Mishra criticised the governments and said that caste discrimination, unfortunately, continues to prevail in society. Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over existence of untouchability and caste discrimination despite 70 years of Independence and pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers.

“Untouchability was abolished, but this is a question before everyone: do you even shake hands with manual scavengers,” the court asked, pointing out that untouchability is still being practised.

The court’s remarks came while hearing the Centre’s plea seeking the recall of a 2018 judgement which virtually diluted the stringent provisions of immediate arrest and denial of anticipatory bail to the accused on a complaint filed under the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra criticised the governments and said that caste discrimination, unfortunately, continues to prevail in society even after 70 years of Independence.

Observing that caste discrimination continues to exist in society and criticising the deaths of people while involved in cleaning places like manholes and drains, the Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers.

Sewer, Workers, Untouchable, SC, India
Despite 70 years of Independence and pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers. Wikimedia Commons

Expressing concern on the issue, the apex court said that nowhere else in the world are people sent to die into gas chambers, referring to the recent deaths in different municipalities of cleaners who had descended for cleaning blocked sewer drains.

The bench also said that it is the “most uncivilised and inhuman situation where people involved in manual scavenging are dying every day and no protective gears are provided to them and no action is taken against the authorities.”

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said that no law of tort, which deals with civil wrong and its liabilities thereof, has been developed in the country.The court also noted that there is no law of tort being practiced in India.

“What have you done for manual scavenging? In no other country, people enter manholes without protective gears. What have you done about it?,” the bench asked. “All humans are equal, and when they are equal, you should provide them equal opportunities,” the court said, adding the governments are not even providing such workers an equal chance and basic facilities to clean themselves.

Sewer, Workers, Untouchable, SC, India
Most uncivilised and inhuman situation where people involved in manual scavenging are dying every day and no protective gears are provided to them and no action is taken against the authorities. Wikimedia Commons

The bench, meanwhile, reserved order on the Centre’s plea seeking recall of its 2018 judgment, the case it was hearing originally. The apex court also asked the parties to submit their written submissions and said that the batch of petitions challenging the Amendment to the Act will be heard separately, next week. The Supreme Court on Friday had referred the Centre’s plea on the 2018 judgment to a larger bench.

The Centre had stated that the judgment diluting the stringent provision of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had “seriously affected the morale of these communities and the confidence in the ability of the state to protect them”.

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The apex court in its March 20 judgement had said: “…in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected without the permission of appointing authority in case of public servant or that of Senior Superintendent of Police in case of general public”.

The court had said it was providing the safeguard “in view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest” under the Act. “It’s necessary to express concern that working of the Atrocities Act should not result in perpetuating casteism, which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values,” it said. (IANS)