PORT-AU-PRINCE (NNPA) - Wadneicia may never know how blessed she was to open her eyes on Jan. 20 in Saint Pierre Square, on the ground, lying on old packing boxes. It was 9 a.m. when Joane Kerez, 20 years old, gave birth to her first child under a cloth tarpaulin with only her mother assisting her.
All around, people went about their business, though curious onlookers crowded the small space just six feet square in size. "I would have rather been somewhere else, in a cleaner place without all those people looking at my body," says Kerez, embarrassed at the lack of modesty.
At least 6,000 people live in this crowded area where every square inch of land is occupied by earthquake victims. Children play amidst the garbage and wash themselves in street ditches; women cook in the stench due to the lack of toilet facilities. Joane's mother cut the umbilical cord with a non-sterile razor blade.
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The only water available was a tank that CARE had installed the day before. More than one thousand gallons of water was supplied to help meet the victims' needs. "Thankfully CARE had installed the tank, otherwise I would have to have used water that comes out of the pipe at the end of the road," said Kerez.
No soap, no clean towel, no disinfectant, no doctor, not even minimal medical equipment in case of complications. And yet Joane's childbirth story is not extraordinary in Haiti. Since Jan. 13, hundreds of other Haitian women have given birth among the rubble in the streets of Port-au-Prince. To improve living conditions for the homeless, CARE has begun to distribute wheelbarrows, shovels and brooms so people can start to clear away the garbage.
"Removing garbage is the absolute minimal requirement for limiting risks of disease," says Franck Géneus, CARE's Health Director in Port-au-Prince. "We are going to set up a network of volunteers among the people living in the area to transmit hygiene awareness-raising messages. We can limit the risks considerably by providing everyone with information about this crucial and fundamental issue."
In a situation this difficult, pregnant women and infants are even more vulnerable. CARE is distributing basic goods and helping to strengthen the thread of life during a women's childbirth and the child's first steps.