With no clean water, Haitians can’t avoid illness
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Close to a month after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, those who cannot afford potable water drink sewer water mixed with bleach.
Most of the Haitians treated Thursday at a small tent city inside the capital suffered from gastrointestinal ailments, and others who had been washing their clothes in dirty water had vaginal and urinary tract infections, said Bryan Swanberg, an emergency medical technician. The camp holds about a dozen tents but only one squalid porta-potty.
The International Medical Assistance Team, a humanitarian group, saw more than 350 people in six hours when it set up a clinic outside the tent city. Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment helped treat people and stood guard.
The Haitians came nonstop, waiting outside the clinic in a line that never seemed to get shorter.
Many were adult women and children, some of whom came in sleeping or passed out. One girl who came looked little older than the infant she accompanied.
The soldiers gave the children balloons with faces painted on them with marker.
Dr. Kirk Brownell tried several times to remove a piece of cotton that had become lodged in a young boy’s ear. If it became infected, he said, it could cause hearing loss.
The boy had to be held down as he screamed in pain, and finally Brownell gave up, telling the boy’s sister to take him to the hospital within the next week or two.
The Haitians kept coming.
A woman with a cast bolted into her leg.
A baby, who had to be hooked up to an IV and then taken to a hospital.
A girl suffering from seizures.
Other children with bugs underneath their skin.
And the line never seemed to get shorter.