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February 5, 2015

Vaccines and ‘Dirt Cookies’

Harry M. Covert

Many circuit courts and those of equal rank in every state, city and town have long faced times when they over-ruled parents. They had to, because some parents won’t allow life-saving blood transfusions or specific prescriptions to protect their children, the elderly, the infirmed and neighborhoods. All of us.


I have always been astonished that judges have had to authorize doctors and nurses to save people.


There are those always willing to risk others’ lives for religious convictions. As a person of faith, I respect those who may disagree. But, and this is a solid but, the rapid advance of medicine is amazing.


Be frank here, people of faith, of all denominations, need not be stupid.


Throughout the country and here in Frederick, it is good, worthy and respectable to vaccinate children before they head out to public, private or religious schools.


The population of the United States is 320,090,857, according to the Census Bureau. The vast majority is vaccinated. This procedure prevents all kinds of fatal sicknesses. Currently, the nation faces a measles outbreak, not as bad as the Ebola problem in Africa, but it could be. One death is too many.


Imagine if penicillin had not come along? Think of all the men and woman injured in wars? Incredible and wonderful.


Fortunately Frederick is not a hotbed to curb vaccinations. There may be a few people who don’t like to protect their children. I am sure happy that my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are hale and hearty. All have had their proper inoculations.


Without a doubt there are educated and political people who want to do away with requiring vaccinations. Along with lots of others, I received a flu inoculation this year. Perhaps medical researchers will come up with a quick and easy “smart” pill. That would be great.


Research shows that seven out of 10 Americans believe parents should vaccinate their children. Seems like so many have forgotten the Nigerian Ebola crisis, even the growing measles crisis surging in the U.S.


The struggle has long been to save thousands of lives in the Dark Continent where disease is no stranger. Missionaries of all persuasions have spent years and years providing medicines of all sorts – healthy drinking water, education, teaching how to develop vegetable gardens, and teaching family hygiene. Recipients don’t pay and don’t have to take a quiz.


There are always a few children and adults who suffer after inoculations. How easy it is to talk about African needs. The task is overwhelming, devastating and ongoing.


In 2009 before the awful Haiti earthquake, my colleagues and I, from England’s Emerge Poverty Free and Holland’s Emerge Kinder Fond, visited Cite Soleil, Haiti. We took on Good Samaritan School as a project, starting out by feeding 350 children and staff daily. We discovered that many people in this area of Port au Prince were eating “dirt cookies.” That’s correct.


Our teams, along with other similar organizations, religious and secular, provided powerful healing medicines and still do today to children and their families. Aspirins did the job.


After the earthquake 2,000-plus families were given tents and placed in the school yard. They were hungry, sick and destitute. One day the principal called in a quandary. What to do with all the people jammed in? We said feed them, keep feeding them and allow volunteer doctors and nurses and missionaries to keep helping. They did. We found the food.


I wrote then: “The people are so poor they make ‘dirt cookies’ to eat and sell for 2¢ each. I saw the recipe — with dirt, salt and butter or lard. Then put on cardboard squares to dry in the sun. We went to the community in Cite Soleil, the poorest, the dirtiest and the neediest place in the world, bar none. We’ve been shipping containers of food and clothing for a long time.” I’ve seen first-hand the successful operations.


Similar efforts have been underway in Burundi, in Uganda and other countries. Don’t think for a moment if Americans stop requiring vaccinations good health will vanish. In fact, the nation which plays such a big role around the world will fail.


Once, in Zaire, 25 shipping containers loaded with medicines, cooking oil, flour, corn meal, clothing, milk and other items arrived in Kinshasa. It was the only time in my life that a shipment allegedly couldn’t be found, even though I identified them by name and number in the customs yard.


After using all of my charm to no avail, I met the military commander and explained our trouble. He offered help. We rode to the customs yard. To no surprise the yardmaster immediately found all containers, nothing had been stolen. I almost forgot, the general in uniform glory and two truckloads of armed soldiers escorted us. They took control and helped rescue the containers. The distribution went well over for the next few days. It was easy.


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