- Posted April 1, 2011 by
Cite Soleil, Haiti
Cholera continues its grip on Haiti
Cholera has somewhat gotten lost in the shuffle of other news, but here in Haiti, it's a very real part of day to day life. Recently, the reality has hit that cholera still has a grip on the country, with little signs of dissapating. Many clinics have run out of funding or are pulling out, leaving few treatment centers to shoulder the load.
With the rainy season on its way, numbers are expected to spike again in the coming months. Recent reports state that infection rates could hit as high as 800,000 people by November—much higher than initial projections.
In Cite Soleil, new cases appear each day, many of them women and young children. The Samaritan’s Purse cholera clinic is taking patients from neighboring communities where almost all other treatment centers have closed.
Currently, our facility is the only one open around the clock, seven days a week, in Cite Soleil. Our staff and volunteer doctors and nurses tirelessly treat each day and night as the sick find their way to our clinic, some carried or driven, others with barely enough strength to walk.
Weislan arrived two days ago with her granddaughter Juliette (picture 1). She is tired, and her eyes tell of her anxiety about cholera spreading.
“My husband was treated here for cholera, and so was my son in December,” she said. “It is a great concern for me that people are still getting it—especially the children.”
She looks over wearily at her granddaughter who is sitting up. Her tiny legs rest limp, her eyes and mouth show little expression. The little girl is also battling a fever today, and may also be infected with malaria.
“What makes this worse is that more children are getting it instead of adults,” Weislan says, anxiety clear in her voice. “In my household, everyone has gotten it except for me. I know how to prevent it, but sometimes, this fight seems impossible. I feel at peace, though, to know that you were still here and open.”
Augustina also is very familiar with the care that is found between these makeshift clinic walls. It is a place that has become a source of comfort for her tired heart (picture 2). She lies in the next ward over. She is 65 and alone; her family was all taken in the earthquake. Her eyes are moist with tears as she recounts January, 2010.
“I was downtown when the earthquake hit,” she said. “My family—all of them—were in our house. When I came running back to it there was nothing left but a pile of rubble. All that mattered to me was under there.”
Augustina looks away before continuing.
“My husband and daughter both perished. And now, I have cholera. I have no one at home to care for me. My neighbor took me to another hospital first. They transferred me here, because this is the place where people with cholera are taken.” She pauses. “The doctors didn’t seem to care. Here, they help me, they take care of me.”
She points to one of the nurses who is standing a few feet away. “And they don’t make me feel like I am a burden.”
Her words hung in the air. Augustina’s sweet smile spoke of her gentle spirit. How could anyone consider her a burden?
In the next ward over is 12 year old Elison, carrying a face that looks as if it has forgotten how to smile (picture 3). There was a sadness emanating from him, and his words explained the depth of his hurt. " I am an orphan," he said with a blank stare. A girl maybe a few years older than him sat on the bed and explained quietly. "His parents were both killed in the earthquake, his neighbors have tried to take him in. But he has no true home. They can't care for him like their own. His pastor brought him in after he heard he was very sick. He misses his parents."
The countless stories of heartbreak I have heard from earthquake survivors over the past several months came flooding back. This nation has endured untold tragedy upon tragedy. Augustina and Elison were striking reminders of the pain that many are still carrying around them, heavy like a blanket, from their losses barely over a year ago.
Their stories are an even stronger reminder of why we cant forget Haiti, and why we must continue on in this fight with them. As we await the announcement of the new president in which many Haitians are placing their hope, we continue to prepare for the next wave of the outbreak, with treatment, education and boundless compassion. These are the only things that can truly help Haiti.