Six months after the earthquake that struck Haiti on 14th August 2021 killing approximately 2,200 people, hurting 12,700, and affecting nearly half a million children, UNICEF continues to assist families, particularly children. With UNICEF’s help, scores of families in Chardonnières are receiving health and nutrition training to better care for their children.
Syndia Célestin, who was only nine months old at the time, endured the most agonizing pain; her mother died after a long battle for her life. She was bedridden in her mother’s house in Chardonnières on the 14th of August 2021, unable to walk to seek safety. Despite obtaining medical assistance, debris fell on her legs, and her health deteriorated. Her newborn daughter required immediate assistance in order to live. Vita Lubin, her grandma, welcomed her into her house and provided her with food, shelter, and a loving hug. The girl’s mother had been ill for months before passing away in December. Her grandmother took her to a number of different hospitals and sold practically everything she owned in order to raise funds for her medical treatment. They were unable to save her, unfortunately. As poverty pervades Vita’s account, she sits on the terrace of her house, which has been badly damaged by the earthquake.
Syndia Célestin is a motherless child who also suffers from severe acute malnutrition. Vita, despite her best attempts, lacks the financial means to meet her granddaughter’s feeding and care requirements. She only feeds her bread and peanut butter some days when she can, but it isn’t enough. Her part-time job as a food vendor isn’t enough to get by, and her savings have vanished as a result of the earthquake and her daughter’s illness. With the baby and other family members, she now lives in an impoverished area in Chardonnières. The earthquake destroyed or damaged a major portion of the residences and buildings in Chardonnières, as it did in the rest of southern Haiti’s communes. Many families have been displaced, experiencing insecurity, food scarcity, and a lack of access to the most basic amenities, such as drinking water.
Child Malnutrition is on the Rise Due to Changing Habits
The earthquake, according to Eveline Dominique Chery, a UNICEF health officer in Les Cayes, “totally affected the lives of the population of Haiti’s southern coast.” Families were compelled to adjust their eating habits as it became extremely difficult for people to obtain the meals they were accustomed to. Some families even reduced the number of daily meals served to their children, while others altered their cooking methods. All of this had a significant impact on the nourishment of Chardonnières’ children. The situation hasn’t changed much in six months. Nearly half a million children, according to UNICEF, have been affected by the earthquake, with little or no access to shelter, drinking water, medical treatment, or nourishment. She further clarifies that at the national level, the worldwide acute malnutrition rate is 6%. It’s 4.7 percent in the south, but it’s likely to have risen following the earthquake.
The Communion of Mothers
Odena Michel, 46, is a mother of two and a volunteer collaborator (Col-vol) at the Bousquette Parenting Club, which meets once a month at a church in Chardonnières. As a community health worker, she began educating mothers in 2011 and formed many groups. She plans hygiene and nutrition training programs, as well as cooking demonstrations, and examines the club’s girls and boys. Vita Lubin is a club member and a dedicated grandmother who attends club meetings on a regular basis to help her granddaughter, Syndia Célestin, enhance her current and future life.
Mantoute Marie Rolande is a nurse at the Sainte Anne Health Center in Chardonnières, where she is in charge of children’s nutrition and vaccinations. They have found malnutrition in more than ten youngsters in the previous few months. Syndia Célestin, who underwent a health check-up for the first time since birth, was admitted to the hospital on February 1, 2022. Mantoute examined the infant and gave her grandma Plumpy’Nut to continue feeding her at home after administering numerous doses of immunizations. Plumpy’Nut is a ready-to-use therapeutic diet based on peanut paste that is simple to administer for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.
Following the earthquake, the Parenting Club suspended its activities, but meetings were gradually restarted. The purpose is to engage mothers in the neighborhood to enhance the nutritional status of children. In recent years, there have been fewer hungry children in the area thanks to the Parenting Club. There are already 179 clubs operating in the Great South region, and despite the fact that they have been around for years, UNICEF’s support to the Ministry of Health is allowing them to grow.
UNICEF has assisted the Ministry in the training of ASCPs (Multi-skilled Community Health Workers) through the Integrated Health Services for Adolescents and Women initiative (SSIAF). It also assists with the clubs, by supporting the monthly activities organized by the moms, according to Céline Percy Élysée, the Southern Health Department’s Child Health Coordinator. UNFPA, UNAIDS, PAHO, WHO, and UNICEF are all involved in the SSIAF project, which is funded by Canada and implemented by UNFPA, UNAIDS, PAHO, WHO, and UNICEF.
31-year-old Wilnèse Mogène, resides in Lapas 2, a Chardonnières commune, with her daughter. She was invited to join the club by Odena in 2016. She says that thanks to the Parenting Club, she has learned a lot of things. They instilled in her the values of hygiene and nourishment and she figured out how to balance her diet at home. She was able to better feed her 10-year-old child thanks to the training she received at the club. Her daughter used to get headaches a lot and couldn’t make sense of what she was learning. Thanks to the well-balanced meals she learned how to prepare and now provides, her daughter hasn’t had a headache since. She is now a good student who recalls all of her lectures.
Wiltana-Beaudier St-Cyr, her fifth-grade daughter, lives with her but was on vacation with her father when the earthquake struck on August 14. She says that her mum sprang to mind right away and she was terrified. She claims she is constantly terrified of earthquakes because she knows she could be one of the victims if the earth shakes. This underlying concern, however, does not stop her from fantasizing about her future: “When I grow up, I want to be a nurse so that I may help people.”
UNICEF and the Ministry of Health have tested 21,800 children under the age of five for acute malnutrition after the earthquake. A total of 1,100 children were treated for acute malnutrition, with another 3,700 receiving treatment for moderate acute malnutrition. UNICEF has prepared emergency nutritional supplies for 27,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in the earthquake-affected areas of the Nippes, South, and Grand’Anse. Keep it here to follow up on the Haiti situation following the earthquake. For knowledge on how to reduce and manage such disasters, register for our course in Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DRRM) today.