It is Saturday or laundry day, everywhere women are washing laundry and river banks are colorfully displaying the families’ clothing. Since they have to squat to wash in the river or in basins filled with water and then get up to rinse and spread the cloths, local people refer to this uniquely feminine chore as “baissser-lever” or “up and down”. The mystery is how does fabric actually get clean and appears white when the river water is far from being clear!
The road to Hinche brings me back to my childhood in Ethiopia, with cattle randomly crossing the road, donkeys hesitating by the side wondering whether they are actually going to cross right in front of the car or wait, the goats that dart and the dogs that more leisurely move out of the way. The country side is dry and mountainous. We drove by Paul Farmer’s clinic in Cange, what a beautiful building overlooking the valley! What an accomplishment in one man’s lifetime.
Here in Hinche I am trying to assess if RT 1 can build an addition on the existing hospital or build a more ambitious Maternity Center. I am working with the Virginia Women Center who has a program called Midwife for Haiti and teaches local nurses to become midwives. We visited the maternity ward yesterday! The first thing that you have to know is that the hospital doesn’t have running water and has sporadic electricity then let your imagination roam to consider the consequences of that simple situation. How do you disinfect, clean patient and wash anything?
Some medication is available but a woman better not need to deliver during the night because the one or two midwives on duty are covering several wards and will not do anything when there is no light. Sometimes women scream for hours until they finally get the care they need or to have a C-section. Speaking to the young (and amazing) mid-wives and nurses who volunteer at the hospital, I am discovering a world of ills that I couldn’t have ever fathomed. Suffice to say that a majority of babies don’t live through the birth process ( 5 -6 die each week) and there is no provision for the preemies that are born from mothers touched by various illnesses or conditions. Sadder yet, there is no incentive to have those children live: it would be costly and their care would demand precious resources that wouldn’t guarantee their having normal self-sufficient lives.
And I was going to find stories of hope……