On my first day in Haiti I tagged along with a group of social workers who were going to a community centre to distribute food. All the children, about a hundred of them, seemed happy and sang a welcome song.
One child, however, was barely moving and lying in the lap of another child.
|photo credit: Georg Willeit|
I went over to the two and saw immediately that this child was much, much too thin.
Marevie is about a year old and weighs about four kilos. I took her, jumped in my car and took her to the hospital as quickly as I could. Marevie didn;t even have the strength to cry anymore or even keep her eyes open.
It took doctors two full hours before they finally found a vein they insert the IV in.
By this time, my nerves were wrecked. In the meantime, the team that had stayed at the community centre had found the mother, so I picked her up and brought her to the hospital.
The next day, I received a call from the doctor, who said "Louis, that is not Marevie's mother". It turns out that she was not, in fact, the girl's mother, who had died giving birth to her, she was the vanished father's girlfriend.
She never fed Marevie, since she never considered it her own responsibility to take care of someone else's child. While the other children, who were the girlfriend's biological children all received planty to eat,
Marevie went hungry. I was infuriated. I have yet to understand how a mother can give food to all the children in her home except one. Marevie is doing a bit better by now.
The most important thing, according to the doctors, is that someone be with her and take care of her. Since I can't be with her all the time, a Haitian girl, the girlfriend of one the interpreters has taken her in.
By now, I have taken Marevie to a different hospital, where she is in the care of specialists. I told the doctor what had happened to Marevie and he said "this girl is your daughter now, at least for as long as she is here with us.
We have put down your name as the father on the registration form - that means you're responsible for her"! I gently placed Marevie in the doctor's hands asked for hundredth time if the Central Hospital was the right place for her.
Whereas in the beginning I was very concerned about Marevie's future, I am now confident that she will be alright. Once she's feeling better, she will be admitted to the SOS Children's Village in Santo, where her future family is already eagerly awaiting her arrival. I know she will be well looked after and never neglected again.