Saturday, September 30, 2006
Haitian women ask for worm medicine all of the time because their children frequently have worms. Jean, the baby in this picture, had vomited over 70 long white worms out of his mouth and nose over the course of 3 days before his mom brought him into clinic. He also had been febrile for one week, and at 28 months of age only weighs 14 lbs. Most likely, this baby has Ascaris, which is type of roundworm. It has a migratory pattern through the lungs and into the digestive tract. Ascaris worms can be as long as 15 inches. Can you imagine the alarm of a mother from the States if her child coughed up a long white worm or dozens of long white worms?
There are approximately 3,200 types of parasites. They can invade the body through food and water intake or through an insect that transmits the parasite like a mosquito or a fly. Parasites live in or on other organisms from which it obtains nutrients to live and frequently harms the organism in the process.
Because most people in Haiti do not have potable water and their living conditions are dismal, they unwillingly ingest the parasites. Parasites can steal vital nutrients from their bodies and they usually attack and hurt the undernourished and weak---like children that sit in the dirt.
Haitian kids have stomach bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, malabsorbtion, anemia, pneumonia, and even perforated intestines due to parasites. Their mothers report that their children grind their teeth at night. Studies have shown decreased intelligence in children infected with parasites.
What is the answer? Justice for the poor, which means jobs, education, clean water, nutritious food, all of which will result in a higher standard of living in Haiti. Until that happens, parasites will continue to infest Haiti’s weakest and most susceptible.