From MFK Nutrition Fellow, Sarah Curley:
When I chose to become a nurse, I never imagined combining my sport of choice (hiking) with my career. Yet I found myself on Thursday, March 9th, hauling several 13.8kg boxes of Medika Mamba up the mountains of Haiti to get to the village of Medor. The village is situated deep in the Artibonite region, a minimum of about three hours driving time to the closest hospital and two hours driving time to the closest clinic. Donkey and foot are the means of transport as, in our case, the trucks usually get stuck on the steep slopes or in the mud.
I have to say my pride was seriously humbled when I was dragging one box of Medika Mamba up the mountain and a 50+-year-old Haitian woman laughed at me as she passed me with two boxes of Medika Mamba propped on her head. Once I reached her at the top, I asked how she is so strong, and she said “se habitude,” meaning it’s my habit. She continued to tell me she walks 12-13 hours every Friday to get to the nearest town to sell her goods. Monday after she’s traded in her profit for several bags of rice, she props the bags on her head and makes the long trek back.
The Haitians are a breed of strong I could have never imagined. Having the opportunity to trek alongside men and women who live in the mountains of Haiti, who on a daily basis travel for hours at a time simply to get a gallon of water back to their homes, is an experience entirely of its own. The sweat was rolling down my face and back and arms and everywhere, and I couldn’t remember why I had ever gone hiking for pleasure. It was a grueling task.
After we finally were able to get to the clinic, a crowd of over 300 people greeted us. Rose Carline and I did our best to see everyone, but unfortunately we weren’t able to. We accepted only the most severe cases of malnutrition, as our supplies are limited in this region. I have never seen children so sick.
I asked the health agent why this region had such high numbers of malnutrition. He said it’s because there is no opportunity for work here and the region continues to be subject to injustice by the landowners. The young men leave the villages in search of what the outside world might be able to offer them. They leave behind their wives and children with the hope of bringing back something more to offer them. The women that are left in the villages often have more than five and sometimes up to fifteen children that they are responsible for. It can be impossible to find balance between breastfeeding, fetching water and firewood, making meals, and guarding their toddlers that have new crawling and walking skills, maintaining the garden for food security, going to the market to trade goods, and often making repairs on the walls and roofs of their homes. Unfortunately breastfeeding is often limited, and their milk supply runs out. Other obstacles include rain or drought, which make it impossible to prepare proper water or meals. The result is too many empty stomachs for too many days in a row.
MFK has a mission to reach the most vulnerable populations at risk for malnutrition. Artibonite is deep in Haiti; the road to reach these people is long and arduous. Transporting Medika Mamba is difficult, but possible and necessary. The world is changing quickly and the hard working people of Haiti are trying to keep up; it’s not a mountain they should have to climb alone. MFK will continue to support the people in this region because no mother should have to helplessly watch her child go hungry.