Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Haitian Orphanage

The Haitian Orphanage—-March 30, 2006

Yesterday Maria and I visited an orphanage here in PAP. There are 90 children in the orphanage which has two buildings located about one block apart. The “new” building has had 3 hours of electricity since the Haitian presidential elections on February 7, 2006. It has no generator yet, so kerosene lamps are used at night for light. This building is the home for approximately 50 toddlers and babies. The other building has the older children.

A young mother came to the gate three days ago. She explained that she just delivered her own baby, cut the cord herself, and swaddled up the baby in a towel. The young mom explained that she has no means to care for the newborn. The manager of the orphanage accepted this baby boy who appears perfect. He just was created and has no marks on him, no impetigo, no hair loss from the unrelenting fungal infections that destroy Haitian kids scalps. He survived his delivery without a Lamaze class, a midwife, a doctor, or anyone except his young mom who did all the right things. He has not been put down yet in the Haitian dirt with its plethora of microbes waiting to attack. And he has avoided the mosquito with it’s malarial parasite and virus which causes dengue fever. Most importantly, he doesn’t yet know he has been abandonded by his birth mom who did the right thing….

The orphanage is staffed by Haitian “nannies” who feed the children, bathe them, wipe their noses, change their diapers, and wash their clothes. Last month, in February, a pregnant lady fell in PAP and went into premature labor. She delivered a 1.2 kg baby girl who was put in a neonatal unit in a community hospital. The baby had a gestational age of 6.5 months. Well, the baby ran up an $800 dollar bill and the mother, of course, could not pay it. The hospital told the mother that if she did not pay the bill, they would put her baby up for adoption. The mother showed up at the door of the orphanage and explained the situation to the managers. The managers talked to the administrator of the hospital who cut the bill in half. The orphanage managers then paid $400 dollars to get the baby, gave it back to the mother, and the mother is working off the bill each day as a nanny in the orphanage. She brings the 2 month old baby girl with her to the orphanage. She is very happy to have her baby who is gaining weight and to retain her dignity by working for the people that saved her baby from adoption.

This building also houses a boy and a girl from the province who were sent into the capital with heart murmurs. Both children are 5 years old. The little girl has a hemoglobin of 6 and the little boy’s hemoglobin is 5. The children walk slowly like shy poor little Haitian kids always walk. Neither say anything and do not appear afraid.

Both of their murmurs are probably innocent flow murmurs because the blood is so thin and non viscous. Also, their hearts are somewhat enlarged from malnutrition and anemia, and that stretches the valves, so the valves can be leaky and create a murmur too. They are so anemic because they lack enough iron in their diets and have worms in their intestines. Both like the meals at their new home and take their iron supplements.

Not having enough to eat in 2006 really is immoral. The median annual income in Miami-Dade County per family is $35,900. The average income in Haiti per person each year is estimated to be about $200. (Median and average are not the same, but one can see the gross inequality between US and Haitian people, even if the units are different.)

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