Thursday, September 07, 2006

Civil War Hard On Kids

This is Louis-Jacques. He is 20 months old and weighs 15 pounds. His mother brought him to clinic yesterday morning for fever, chronic cough, diarrhea and malnutrition. Mother stated that when things became very dangerous in Martissant in June she and the baby’s father moved him outside of Martissant to Leoganne which is a city south of Port-au-Prince. She and her husband returned to the capital but stayed in a differed location due to the violence in Martissant. He lived with her sister but became ill over the summer and so she went and got him and brought him to the clinic today.

Martissant is the name for mountain top slums that ring the southern quarter of Port-au-Prince. Gangs were on a rampage in May and June, executing people and burning down their shacks. Refugees from Martissant fled the area with the belongings they could carry on their head. Many took refuge in a nearby Baptist mission while others fled to a seminary. Conditions were bad in both locations due to the massive number of people and lack of food and drinking water.

A recent Lancet article, documented earlier on this web log, stated that 8,000 people have been killed in Haiti since the coup of President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Not included in the 8,000 are the countless people that have died due to their inability to receive adequate medial care. Louis-Jacques could be one of them.

Another Lancet article from June, 2006 says the following: “Children under 5 years of age have the highest mortality rates I conflict-affected settings. In some situations when childhood interventions have been disrupted for periods, older children are similarly affected. Diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, measles, malaria, and severe malnutrition are the most common causes of death in the early phases of conflict-related emergencies. In addition, outbreaks of other infectious diseases such as pertussis, typhoid, and meningococcal meningitis, can contribute substantially to childhood morbidity and mortality.

Louis-Jacques appeared so similar to the hundreds of other babies that flood the clinic each week. He didn’t smile. He looks terrible. His hair is orange and he coughs a thick nonproductive cough. His mother seemed to care for him as much as she could. Life is very hard here.

I sent him for a chest x ray but the machine is not working. It will be fixed tomorrow. I asked the mother to return with Louis-Jacques tomorrow for the film to see if he has tuberculosis. I gave them a prescription for oral rehydration and antibiotics for pneumonia. Hopefully they will return. They live quite a ways from the clinic and the streets are still “hot’ in more ways than one.

Haiti is in the middle of a civil war after suffering many years of “low intensity warfare”. The Louis-Jacques and their parents, like the 8,000 people overtly murdered, are caught in the middle and don’t do well during times like this.

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