Friday, March 12, 2010

Haitians still in a 'stunned' state

A Massachusetts volunteer for "Medicines for Humanity" just returned from Haiti. Betty Scanlon says that most of the people there are still in a "stunned" state from the earthquake back in January. Many Haitians are still afraid to go indoors, still fearful or depressed.

Now that the rainy season has begun in Haiti, new humanitarian challenges emerge as all of the homeless, shelter-less people stand under the heavy rains. Medical workers in Haiti fear that malaria will soon effect hundreds due to the rainy season.

From The Abingdon Mariner, writer Seth Jacobson interviewed Betty Scanlon.

Bilodeau said even before the earthquake, people in Haiti were dying in large numbers from very treatable ailments like dehydration and diarrhea, noting, “In Haiti, one out of every 10 children do not reach their fifth birthday” because of these sicknesses.

“Normally, there’s a resiliency among people who live in poverty,” Scanlon said. “But what we’re seeing in Haiti is that sense of resiliency is being overshadowed by grief, loss and trauma. People are afraid to go indoors for fear a given structure might collapse.”

She said some women were sleeping on tarps on the ground, on their backs, holding their infants up in the air for fear they would drown in the floods from the heavy rain.

“I saw some people standing under awnings in the rain, sleeping standing up,” Scanlon said.

She said health professionals told her that with the rainy season coming on, cases of malaria will also be increasing, adding to Haiti’s troubles.

On top of everything else, Scanlon said psychological professionals in Haiti told her that because of the current situation in the country, “suicide rates will most likely go up.”

“It really is an unthinkable situation,” she said.

When she was asked what the country needs most, Scanlon said, “It’s still very much about food, water and shelter.”

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