Bobbi will be healthy this Christmas!
As the Christmas decorations and carols start to fill the wards of our hospital, the children are looking forward to happy days ahead. It’s been a tough year at our hospital and the kids really need a bit of Christmas cheer. Apart from our Covid19 ward, another department that has been busy this year is our malnutrition ward. The pandemic has deepened the existing economic crisis in Haiti and many families are finding it increasingly difficult to feed their children.
Carmite’s family have really struggled this year. Mother of three, she wakes up early to set up her vegetable stall on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. She says this neighbourhood was once a paradise, but now it’s run by the gangs and is known as a ‘no-go’ area throughout the capital. “I don’t earn a lot because of the problems affecting the area,” Carmite admits. When Covid19 arrived in Haiti many businesses collapsed, including the small coal business that Carmite’s husband used to run.
Despite his best efforts to find steady work, it has been very difficult.
With tears in her eyes Carmite confesses that in times of trouble, her family sometimes goes hungry for several days. The pain of seeing her children constantly cry drains her. “I do my best to feed my three children, but it is difficult,” she says.
In June Carmite began to see a decline in her son Bobbi’s health. At just 20-months-old his ankles began to swell and he developed a nasty cough. She thought it was intestinal worms and tried giving him herbal teas. But Bobbi’s health continued to deteriorate. He started crying uncontrollably due to stomach pains. Since malnutrition weakens the immune system, it provokes other illnesses.
Panicked, Carmite took Bobbi to a doctor, who quickly referred him to our St Damien Paediatric Hospital. On arrival, he was given nutritional stabilisation treatment, receiving peanut paste and therapeutic milk. Under the watchful eye of the nutritional specialists his condition began to improve after two weeks.
Carmite says, “Seeing my son in such a serious condition was heart-breaking. The doctors and nurses were so good at taking care of him. They asked lots of difficult questions, which I felt ashamed to answer, but I knew it was for Bobbi’s benefit,” says Carmite.
Malnutrition is badly perceived in Haiti. Parents often feel embarrassed and don’t always tell doctors the whole truth about what and how frequently they feed their children.
In 2019 our malnutrition ward received 402 children: an average of eight children per week. This year all 12 beds have been fully occupied, with children staying for two to four weeks at a time. Once the child is discharged, there are check-ups and therapy appointments to monitor their health.
Carmite is relieved to see Bobbi smiling and playing with his siblings. “I would never have had enough money to pay for the care of my child. Thank you to St. Damien Hospital, to the doctors and nurses who saved him. He is now in good health,” Carmite smiles.
Since the pandemic started we have treated over 1000 children suspected to have Covid19. As tests are not always available in Haiti, it’s impossible to give an accurate number of cases. Unfortunately, 22 children have passed away because of the virus. Our staff remain vigilant, taking precautions with PPE, good hygiene and social distancing. The Haitians are an incredibly resilient people – Covid19 is just one of many crises they face.
Not even a pandemic will stop our staff from giving the children special treats this Christmas. There will be lots of smiles on Christmas Day when the kids receive presents from Papa Noël.
The parents, seeing the joy on their children’s faces, will say a prayer of thanks to all those who help them.