Dr. Frist and the Tsunami

From the New England Journal of Medicine: NEJM — Recovering from the Tsunami

The media reports on the tsunami that hit South Asia the day after Christmas did little to prepare me for what I saw firsthand when I visited Sri Lanka and India. Working as a missionary, I have visited destroyed towns in war-torn Sudan and witnessed deep, grinding poverty in Uganda and Kenya. The challenges in South Asia are as daunting as any I have seen. Flying over the coastline in a helicopter, we saw an unending scene of devastation. All told, more than 150,000 people are dead and over 5 million have been left homeless.

Many of the tragedies we encountered defied simple solutions. At one overburdened hospital, I met an eight-year-old boy with infected leg abscesses. He had spent nine days in a futile search for his family (his parents and siblings had all perished) rather than seek immediate treatment for the injury he received in the initial deluge. Even those who are physically uninjured have sustained severe psychological wounds. Thousands of children will grow up without parents. And the rudiments of normal life (electricity, schools, houses of worship, and a functional economy) will take years to rebuild.

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