UN World Food Programme

Haiti: A Clinic is Making a Big Difference 3 Years After the Earthquake

Rousselene Jean is hoping to leave the site that became her home three years ago. Her baby was born a few months ago and she breastfeeds him. (Copyright: WFP/Stephanie Tremblay)

Nutritional assistance provided to people still struggling to rebuild their lives three years after the earthquake helps mothers raise healthy children.

PORT-AU-PRINCE --Three years after the earthquake, there are fewer tents, fewer people at the site of the old military airport in Port-au-Prince. Many have found a roof to put over their heads, but thousands are still living between abandoned old planes and helicopters in what used to be one of Port-au-Prince’s biggest camps.

Rousselene Jean is hoping to leave the site that became her home three years ago. With her aunt and her baby, Dawensly, she shares a shack built with found wood planks, a little bit of plywood, metal sheeting and covered with old tarpaulins to shield the place from the rain. Inside, neatly organized are a few pieces of clothing and one narrow bed where the 2 women and the baby sleep huddled together.

It’s lunchtime and Rousselene’s small charcoal stove is sitting at the entrance of the house. No one is cooking though. There is no food in Rousselene’s house today. To make a living, she does laundry for people more fortunate than her. Right now, she says, she can’t find many customers. Earning enough money to buy food, pay for basic expenses is a daily struggle.

“Without the help I get, it would be hard to have enough to eat,” Rousselene says, referring to the nutritional supplements from WFP she has been receiving since she found out she was pregnant.

Her baby was born a few months ago and she breastfeeds him. Little Dawensly is chubby and looks healthy.

“He’s good,” she says. The nurses at the health centre located in the middle of the camp, agree. Rousselene is a regular here. The porridge made of fortified corn soya flour blend, sugar and oil that she eats every day continues to make a big difference.

“I would have never guessed that it would still be like that 3 years after the quake,” says Anne-Rose Saint-Preux, one of the people in charge of the health centre managed by FONDEFH, a local health organization supported by WFP, UNICEF and others. “It’s always crowded.”

This health centre was set up quickly after the earthquake to provide basic health services free of charge to the thousands of displaced people. Three years later, Saint-Preux notices that if the demand is still big, people come from further away to get access to free health services.

When she thinks about all that’s been accomplished since 2010, one of the first things that comes to her mind is that the nutritional status of children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers has improved.

“We focus on prevention and sensitization,” she says. “When we see a woman from the beginning of her pregnancy, we do not see her come back with a malnourished child later.”

Sylvania Nelson is living proof that sensitization works. She is due to give birth to her second child in a few weeks and has been eating the nutritional supplements provided by WFP since the beginning of her pregnancy. She is also the mother of Erika, a healthy three-year old girl who receives a fortified peanut paste designed specifically to prevent malnutrition.

Erika doesn’t know that her mamba – peanut butter in creole- helps her grow up healthy, but she knows the white and orange box is hers. As soon as her mother gets out of the health center, Erika digs up her box of mamba from the bag filled with WFP products and keeps it close to her chest, like a prize.

“Prevention helps a lot,” adds Anne-Rose Saint-Preux from FONDEFH.

Everyone at the clinic knows Sylvania and her daughter Erika. Their tent is just a few meters away and they have been regulars here since the beginning. They have very little, but at least, they have access to services that help Sylvania’s children grow up healthy.

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