In the cover photo, taken October 17, 2008, a boy flies a kite in a refugee camp in Haiti where 700 people have sought shelter after their homes were washed away by Hurricane Ike. On this page: in the city of Cabaret, September 7, 2008, Frantz Samedi clings to the body of his five-year-old daughter, Tamasha Jean, who drowned during Hurricane Ike.
When tropical storms and hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike trampled Haiti's agricultural sectors last August and September, killing 793 people and leaving a million homeless, one of the world's poorest countries was made destitute. In the current global economy, with the costs of food imports rising and donations drying up, the malnutrition already present in Haiti may become something worse: famine.
Initially, fallen bridges and battered roads prevented health care workers from reaching the injured and sick, recalls Maud C. Duvilaire, nursing director at the ministry of health and general secretary of the nurses association in Haiti. United Nations (UN) helicopters finally enabled rescues.
"It was not easy to find health care workers who wanted to go," says Duvilaire, "but the young nurses who were out of work were hungry to volunteer."
Drowning, skin and gynecologic infections from standing in water for days, and the psychological toll were among the most severe consequences Haitians suffered as a result of the storms.
According to the Haitian government, more than 300,000 children have been affected. Duvilaire's greatest concerns now are treating the many children in southeast Haiti who are dying from diarrhea and malnutrition and educating mothers on how to feed them. According to the UN's World Food Programme, even before the storms childhood malnutrition was a serious problem: one-third of newborns were born underweight, 9% of children under the age of five suffered from acute malnutrition, intestinal parasites afflicted 32% of school-age children, and in rural areas an estimated 72% of children aged six to 12 were iodine deficient. And as the Miami Herald reported last December 1, preliminary assessments by aid groups suggest that malnutrition rates have "skyrocketed in hurricane-affected areas."
Duvilaire attests to the aid that has streamed into Haiti but notes that it isn't enough. In addition to the lack of supplies, there are too many sick for the few health care providers and hospitals to treat. Still, she notes that in comparison to the situation four years ago, when the last major storm struck Haiti, more help now comes from within: "This time people inside the country put their hands together to help. We have to do it to advance."
In the hardest-hit city of Gonaïves, work has begun on a temporary hospital. But half of the 300,000 people who live in that city depend on donated food. This month, funds from the World Food Programme, which currently help to feed people in Gonaïves and elsewhere in Haiti, will run out.
Alison Bulman, senior editorial coordinator