Cover Story

Foreign aid bust

"Foreign aid bust" Continued...

Issue: "Between Hell and Hope," Feb. 12, 2011

Cholera is particularly brutal here: The waterborne disease spreads quickly in communities lacking clean drinking water or basic sanitation. The illness often induces severe diarrhea and often descends quickly, killing victims who don't rehydrate-sometimes within hours.

Not far from the Titanyen burial site, Samaritan's Purse operates a cholera clinic in the infamous community of Cité Soleil, a sprawling slum notorious for poverty and violence. The North Carolina--based Christian relief group has treated more than 7,500 patients at cholera treatment centers and mobile units around the region since the outbreak began. The organization pairs medical volunteers with Haitian staff, providing a mentoring relationship and improved skills for Haitian nurses.

During a morning shift in mid-January, doctors tended to 34 patients-a low number compared to the peak season last December. Inside, rows of cots reveal the disease's effects: The narrow cots include a triangular hole with a bucket underneath for patients to cope with diarrhea. Visitors must step on bleach-soaked pads to clean their shoes as they pass through the clinic's stations, and wash their hands in a bleach solution as they enter and leave the wards.

In the women's ward, Jean Catherine, a 31-year-old mother of four, sits on the side of her cot, watching a bag of IV fluid run through a tube into her arm. Catherine has been here for two days and has improved dramatically: "When I first came, I couldn't stand up." Lying next to her on the cot, Catherine's 4-month-old son squirms and coughs. The baby doesn't have cholera, but relatives brought the nursing infant to the clinic while his mother was still in the worst moments of her illness. "We have no other way to feed him," she says.

On a nearby row, Manita Dada sits next to the cot of her 9-year-old cousin, Stanley, a cholera patient who arrived three days ago. Dada says she's sitting with Stanley while the boy's mother goes to Port-au-Prince to try to sell a bag of rice for a small profit. The young woman holds a small, black copy of the New Testament and Psalms that she reads aloud while her cousin sleeps. He wakes as she reads Psalm 23.

Catherine-who lives in a makeshift house in Cité Soleil and can't afford hospital visits-is thankful that she's passed through the valley of the shadow of death. She strokes her son's leg and talks about what might have happened: "If there was no clinic, I would die."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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