On that visit, we learned how dire the situation was: more than 2000 men were disabled because of diving, and hundreds more joined them every year. And those were the men who lived through their injuries. Many others didn’t.
Now I’m back in La Ceiba. Dr. Mejia invited me down to help him put on three days of training in Oxygen First Aid and additional measures for the boat captains and owners. These are the men who care for (and are responsible for) the divers. This problem isn’t new and there isn’t an easy solution. If you shut down the diving—like has been proposed and the government has attempted to do—the men have no way to make a living and no way to support their families. Their only other option is smuggling drugs. But if something isn’t done, more men will die.
This scheduled training is a great first step. The boat owners realize they have to do something. They have to be more responsible. And they have to take better care of their divers. If they don’t , the government is prepared to shut them down for good. And then everyone loses.
So, I was thrilled to hear from Dr. Mejia when I arrived that he had been invited to speak to the Honduran National Congress in Tegucigalpa today and give his recommendations on how the divers can reduce their risk and how we can improve their care. That is a tremendous first step and a great recognition of the work Dr. Mejia has done. He has not been alone in this. Many others have pursued this project over the years. Groups have conducted training for the divers, lobbied the government and provided health care opportunities. The changes we are seeing (I say very hopefully) are the culmination of many different people working for many years to improve things for these men who harvest the sea.
The next few days should be interesting as we are going to attend a symposium tomorrow where various groups will be taking up these exact same questions. And then the training begins the next day. It should be an interesting week.
Hopefully this won’t just be a circle, but an upward spiral.