Notre Dame's aid effort in Haiti disrupted by uprising

by A.P. staff

SOUTH BEND, IND. — The violent uprising in Haiti has disrupted a University of Notre Dame program aimed at eliminating a disfiguring disease from the impoverished nation.p. The professor who oversees the school’s Haiti Program left the Caribbean country on Monday, leaving behind the anti-elephantiasis effort for which Notre Dame received a $5.2 million grant in 2000.p. The program last year inoculated almost a half million Haitians with a medication that prevents new infections carried by a mosquito-borne parasitic worm for a year, said the Rev. Thomas Streit, a biology professor.p. Streit, who returned to Notre Dame’s campus on Tuesday, said armed gangs loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had accosted people working for the program and stolen one of their vehicles.p. The program, carried out largely by Haitian employees, has been curtailed in areas controlled by the rebels, where people are staying home from work.p. Streit said many Haitians were trying to carry on their lives as normally as possible, sometimes creating bizarre contrasts.p. On the way to the airport on Monday, Streit said he passed people setting up parade floats for the country’s traditional pre-Lenten carnival. Within a few blocks, the scene turned ominous, with intersections patrolled by armed thugs in black masks.p. “It was surreal,” he said. “They were trying to continue with carnival. But they weren’t really pulling it off.”p. Streit first started studying lymphatic filariasis, the underlying disease that causes elephantiasis, in Haiti since 1993. The university received the $5.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its effort to eliminate the disease.p. Streit said hoped this latest political unrest does not cause Americans to give up on Haiti and turn their backs on its many problems.p. “Now is when help is needed most,” he said.p. Information from: South Bend Tribune

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