At a glance: Haiti

Education and health care help quake-affected children start fresh in a Haitian mountain village

Haiti earthquake: one-year report

Children in Haiti are still reeling from the lingering impact of the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Here is one in a series of stories on the long road from relief to recovery, a year later.

By Cifora Monier

JACQUOT, Haiti, 10 January 2011 – Until recently, health care and education facilities were non-existent in the Haitian mountain village of Jacquot, near the capital, Port-au-Prince. But 12 months after the earthquake that devastated this Caribbean nation, local residents now have both.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Bob Coen reports on health facilities and schools that are helping earthquake victims rebuild their lives in the mountain village of Jacquot, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Watch in RealPlayer

 

Sr. Marie Benedicte has seen the changes made by a school and clinic in her community. She is not only the administrator of the local UNICEF-supported school but also a medical doctor who runs the only clinic for Jacquot’s 8,000 inhabitants and others living nearby.

“I see 60 to 80 patients every day that come from Jacquot and from the surrounding villages,” says Sr. Benedicte. “Before we set up the clinic in response to the earthquake, most of these patients would have had to go to Port-au-Prince for treatment if they had the financial means – and if they were lucky enough to arrive in time, before their illnesses became fatal.”

Relieved and grateful

A long line forms outside Jacquot’s UNICEF-assisted health clinic and dispensary.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Monier
Marie Marthe Aristile and her daughter Lourdia, 6, wait their turn to see Sr. Marie Benedicte from the Fraternite Notre Dame Mission, who is the only doctor in Jacquot, Haiti and surrounding mountain villages.

“I had to wake up at three this morning to bring my child to see the doctor,” says Marie Marthe Aristile, who is leaving the clinic with her daughter Lourdia, 6. “We have walked for four hours to get here. Lourdia has been having fever every night for over a week and I am very worried about her.”

With Lourdia’s illness diagnosed as an ear infection and medication given, Ms. Aristile is both relieved and grateful. “My wish is for us to get help to restart our lives. It’s been a very difficult year,” she says.

Access to health care

Before the clinic was set up, it would take Ms. Aristile and mothers like her at least eight hours to walk to the nearest health facility, which was located on the outskirts of the capital.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Monier
Sister Marie Benedicte examines Marie Marthe Aristile's daughter Lourdia, 6.

“With the support of UNICEF,” notes Sr. Benedicte, “we are able to deal with most of the medical conditions. However, if their condition is deemed very serious, we use our pickup truck and drive the one-hour route to take them the general hospital in the capital.”

UNICEF Chief of Health Dr. Jean-Claude Mubalama adds that improving access to health care – especially in isolated communities such as Jacquot – is a priority for UNICEF in Haiti, particularly in the aftermath of the earthquake and the recent cholera outbreak.

“Having a health facility such as this one in rural areas has made it easier for families to access medical care,” says Dr. Mubalama. “UNICEF will continue to support and expand further health facilities in the rural areas, especially those that were damaged by the earthquake.”

Invisible scars

At the nearby communal school – operated by Sr. Benedicte and her religious order, the Fraternite Notre Dame Mission – Darline, 17, remembers the quake.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Monier
Primary students at the community school in Jacquot, Haiti have lunch prepared by the school canteen with the support of UNICEF the World Food Programme.

“We lost our home here in Jacquot on the day of the earthquake, but nobody was killed or injured in my family,” she says. “In Port-au-Prince it was horrible, just horrible.”

Her school was destroyed and has been rebuilt, but Darline has been affected by the disaster in less visible ways. “I don’t work as well as I should at school since the earthquake. I can’t concentrate, and I’m scared all the time,” she confides.

Overcoming trauma

Sr. Benedicte says the school, which was reconstructed with help from UNICEF, is an important means of helping Darline and other children overcome the psychological trauma caused by the earthquake.

“Here, they can play with their friends and share their feelings, even though they saw the original structure of the school collapse on January 12,” she says.

UNICEF is supporting schools like the one in Jacquot to give quake-affected children in rural areas a fresh start on their education. As one of 307 students ranging from pre-school to secondary-school age, Darline hopes to become a nurse when she completes her studies.

“Many of the children who came back to Jacquot after the earthquake were haunted by what they saw,” says Sr. Benedicte. “This is something that will be in their memories for the rest of their lives.”


 

 

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