More photos here, in the gallery we set up with the material our colleagues have been sending daily from Haiti and the Dominican Republic border. We are also publishing some (hopefully) interesting stuff in our brand new twitter account.
You can find below a nice collection of photos summarizing the atmosphere we’ve had during the last three weeks (thanks Victor!). There you can see the folkls I work with, and also some of the activities we’ve developed in Mexico, like the shipment of Oseltamivir:
Bonus: with a bit of attention you can also find me totally concentrated doing god only knows :)
The organization has been more flexible than I expected. In a big institution you’d say there are internal inertias difficult to change, requiring weeks to be redirected. However, we adapted our work in a matter of hours. We left one day with a list of priorities, and by the end of the next morning we had them rewroked. Having a smart boss is important.
I also thought that with hundrreds of people available, we were gonna set up shifts to keep the normal working hours to a certain extent (even if we needed to work in the weekends or night). Wrong again. It’s true we had shifts, but a large core of people decided to stay available 24/7, spending way more than 8 hours per day in the office. I don’t think this was about a lack of personnel but a commitment to their responsibilities.
In any case, it’s the first time I live a situation like this (and hopefully the last one) so I may be struck by things the veterans consider natural in emergencies. I’ll take my time before finalizing the (long) list of lessons learned –from day zero, like a reflex, I got a notebook and started writing down all kind of things: stuff to improve, to pay attention to, workflows, organization charts, research articles…. Like in the avian flu, this is hopfeully the kind of situations which make international institutions more effective, right?
I know there’re some misunderstandings out there about the influenza outbreak. Taking into account my privileged position, I’d like to formally clarify some elements:
- It’s not true that at WHO we only get data from the epidemiologists and neglect CNN. We do watch it, and we’ve had good laughs with it.
- It’s a pandemic but we still recommend to travel. We’re actually traveling a lot. If I didn’t have this particular sense of responsibility I’d personally travel as far as possible from the office.
- I admit I’ve spent time thinking about the best way of translating influenza into Spanish. Influenza or gripe? Gripe or influenza?
- The situation isn’t that serious; we just stay working in the office because it was part of the conspiracy agreement with the aliens.
- I’ve also spent time verifying if swine influenza was gonna change its name due to religious or economic complains.
- It’s categorically false to affirm that since the beginning of the outbreak we’re spending 100% of our time at the office. I’m taking two hours off this Saturday.
- The WHO recommends eating pork. I particularly recommend it with fries and beer.
This is the monster taking all my time in the last days and will continue some more time. An outbreak of swine influenza A (H1N1) that is affecting people everywhere and killing some at least in Mexico, where everything seems to have started.
I always wanted to know how an International Organization works and now I’m learning it the hard way.
Be careful what you wish for!
Oh man, I’m leaving Brussels.
After several years dedicated to research one way or another, I feel it’s time to tackle new projects. I got an offer I couldn’t refuse and in a couple of weeks or so I’ll be heading to Washington DC to join World Health Organization’s regional office.
(Please note that it’s actually to help out Obama with all the mess — the text above is only the official cover he asked me to say.)
(To be honest this is a promotion within the Spanish intelligence agency, but we want to keep the CIA guys confused.)
(Right, I’ve to stop watching Fringe.)
The idea is to continue working on what I’ve been doing lately — disasters data management if you were wondering. The plan is to be as useful as possible. And to learn, that’s also the plan.
I’m gonna miss the city, reviewing the photos I published during the last two years I realize I almost got an average of a pic per day (!): chocolate, beer, Belgian fries (best in the world) + mussels, the Manneken Pis, the Grand Place and the Atomium, markets in the street, the damn rain (and the snow), the language fair, eternal chats in the brasseries, the masonic icons; the metro, the tram and the lack of bikes; Tintin, the EU atmosphere, a new government every three months, the mitraillette, my terrace.
But what really rocks in Brussels –yeah you saw this coming– is the people. I’ve got two full weeks of holidays, I still need to pack, sign documents, book the tickets… but expect my call to share a penultimate beer!
Wish me good luck.
Cyclone Nargis and its aftermath, on the other hand, provide a vivid study in how poverty and insufficient government investment can turn a natural disaster into an outsize human tragedy, said Debarati Guha-Sapir, the director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Research on Disaster Epidemiology, in Brussels.
“The villages are in such levels of desperation — housing quality, nutritional status, roads, bridges, dams — that losses were more determined by their condition rather than the force of the cyclone,” she said.
The Dangers of the Deltas @ The New York Times.