Fiona Perry, a health advisor for World Vision from the U.K., writes from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
On hearing the rain in the morning, I hoped it was someone showering in the next room. But no, Port-au-Prince had been soaked through. Not only have families got to put up with living cramped in a tiny, 6-foot-by-6-foot space covered with sheets, blankets, or sometimes plastic sheeting held up by makeshift poles—now they have to battle the rain.
I have been in Haiti for a month, helping to address the health, hygiene, and nutrition needs of those affected by the January earthquake. A few days ago, I had one of those experiences that helped me to remember why I am here. I was visiting a camp with a particularly well-organized and obliging committee. We walked through the labyrinth of narrow pathways where close to 200 families live on a plot of land perhaps the size of a tennis court. Here, World Vision has provided people with heavy-duty plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, and cooking sets. It was great to see that each house had a plastic sheet and most have made every effort to make their hut a home. A kiosk had been established out of an entrepreneur’s home selling fruit, condensed milk, sugar, and spices, and a few of the children were having their afternoon wash.
I was called over to a woman lying on a plastic sheet on the floor, having just given birth to a baby boy not more than a few minutes before. A nurse who happened to be in the camp had helped deliver her baby but had run out of equipment. She needed some more gloves and was out of plastic sheets. There was no sign of any of the childbirth comforts that we in the U.K. take for granted—a nice, soft mattress; a pillow; some nice, soothing music playing in the background; or someone to hold your hand.
The week before, I had been at the same camp, distributing clean-delivery packs to pregnant mothers, so I sent the camp leader to get a pack from one of the mothers. I took out the clean gloves, plastic sheet, and piece of material from the kit and helped the nurse with the woman’s prolapsed uterus. We both agreed she needed to go to hospital. Her new baby was wrapped in a towel, and we assisted her to walk to the car. At the busy city hospital, a doctor examined her before telling us he had nowhere to live. I am constantly shocked at how everyone has been affected by this disaster.
When I went home that evening and felt tempted to complain about a lack of electricity, or that I have to eat the same food every day (rice and beans mostly), that there is no light in the bathroom, or that I have to have a cold shower every morning, I stopped myself. One day with those affected, and my struggles seem very small indeed.