Saturday, June 03, 2006


Almost every child we examine in the clinic in Haiti has worms at one time or another. Their mothers mention that the baby defecates worms or coughs them up on a routine basis. I think the Haitian mothers report this with the same amount of emotion that a mother from the United States reports that her baby has the sniffles.
Haitian moms frequently state that the baby grinds its teeth at night or cries out in its sleep or complains of abdominal pain. Also, a depigmentation of skin where the nostrils join the face is another "telltale" sign of being infested with worms.

In Lancet May 6, 2006, the Seminar is "Soil-transmitted Helminth Infections". The article reports:

More than a billion people world wide are infected with at least one species of worm. Of particular interest are the roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms. They are considered together because it is common for a single individual, like the kids we examine in Haiti, to be chronically infected with all of these worms. Such children have malnutrition, growth stunting, intellectual retardation, and cognitive and educational defects.

These soil transmitted worms are one of the world's most important causes of physical and intellectual growth retardation. Yet, despite their educational, economic, and public-health importance, they remain largely neglected by the medical and international community. This neglect stems from three features: first, the people most affected are the world's most impoverished, particularly those who live on less than US $2 per day; second, the infections cause chronic ill health and have insidious clinical presentation; and third, quantification of the effect of these infections on economic development and education is difficult.

So as soon as the Haitian babies quit taking their mother's milk and are placed on the ground, they are subjected to these unrelenting parasites. Haiti's infrastructure breeds all types of parasites which diminish the quality and quantity of life for Haiti's most innocent. Haiti's future adults are compromised from the beginning and Haiti's future as a viable country is jeopardized as well.

Medicine should be politics. They can never be separated. Public health care experts and doctors need to continually repeat how the two are related. Taking care of the infrastructure will take care of people and make the country viable in the competitive world in which we live.

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