Hungry in Haiti: A mother struggles to feed her children

Kethlene and her son, Richard.

“How many times a day do your children eat?” “Three to four times a week.”

Kethlene blinks and her eyes are wet. “I live by myself. I am on my own with four children and as hard as I try, I can’t feed them every day. I work as a cleaning lady when I can, doing laundry, but most of the time I can’t find work. If I do, I use the little bit of money I get to buy a tiny bit of food and make my children a small meal.”

Kethlene arrived at the malnutrition clinic this morning with her four-year-old son, Richard. He was weak and sleepy, speaking in a voice barely audible. Suffering from a form of malnutrition called Kwashiokor Marasme, Richard was admitted into Kay au Bois, St. Luke’s malnutrition program. The program, which started two years ago, combats the massive malnutrition in Haiti. Before the earthquake, 17,500 children under the age of five were reported to be acutely malnourished. After January 12th, that number skyrocketed.

At Kay au Bois, patients have a weekly appointment for a consultation and receive food packages to feed their children for six weeks. It is a lifesaver for children such as Richard. Before the earthquake, Richard lived high up in the mountains with his uncle, because his mother had no money to support him. But his uncle’s death post-earthquake meant that his mother had to take him back into the family, even with the knowledge that she would not be able to give him proper shelter or food. She finally came to St. Damien’s when Richard’s starved appearance convinced her that they needed to seek medical help.

When asked why she chose the hospital, given the three hour distance from her home to Tabarre, she pauses to consider the question, and gives a slight smile. “St. Damien’s is one of the best hospitals in the country,” she says. “It’s not just about the illness-they care about the human being.” Her smile becomes a bit wider. “Basically, they care for your child like it was one of their own.”

Note: The St. Luke Foundation is an affiliation of NPFS Haiti. The Kay au Bois malnutrition program is located on the NPFS St. Damien Pediatric Hospital grounds.



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