Protecting Haitian Children in Tent Cities from Infectious Disease like Pneumonia

Protecting Haitian Children in Tent Cities from Infectious Disease like Pneumonia

By the Haitian Pediatric Society

Nearly three years after the devastating earthquake of January 2010, many people in the Haitian Capital of Port-au-Prince still live under tents provided through humanitarian aid from other countries. The Haitian Pediatric Society (Societe Haitienne de Pediatrie or SHP) is very preoccupied by that situation, especially since many of the NGOs that had provided help to those camps have now left the country. Unfortunately, what seemed to be a temporary solution to a catastrophic situation is becoming a permanent alternative, leaving many Haitians in very precarious conditions.

One of these citizens is Rachelle, who lives in a tent city in Delmas. She often finds herself searching for medical care for her sick child. When we asked her about her situation she said, “We all want to leave the camp. We are tired of staying under a tent. We can see that it is not good for the kids. They get sick very often.”

Many children still live in tent cities around Port-au-Prince, where they receive less help with each passing month, due to a decrease in the emergency response and an increase in donor discouragement. Their situation leaves them susceptible to many infectious diseases, which are the leading killers of children in developing countries like Haiti. For example, on any given day in our country, more than 60% of patients in pediatric wards are suffering from respiratory infections or diarrhea. Hospitals struggle with the high demand of children needing help and the lack of necessary equipment, such as oxygen concentrators and ventilation units, to properly treat patients. Medical facilities supported by international aid receive additional supplies to meet high demand, but when the international aid leaves, so do the supplies and equipment. With lack of hospital help, children are dying from late consultations after their parents have tried empiric medications.

Guerline also has lived in the tent city since her home was lost in the earthquake. She describes the tent city:  “Too many people living in a small area makes it crowded. The temperature is very high in tent during the day and almost cold at night. The kids in camp are always coughing.”

We at SHP want to make sure people like Rachelle and Guerline, who are desperately seeking a better situation for their children, can be more prepared to offer better care to their children. That is why we are undertaking a variety of educational activities for World Pneumonia Day, to spread awareness of this leading killer of children, along with other diseases. We cannot offer houses to families, nor can we give them money to survive, but we can help teach them how to be prepared to protect their children’s lives.