International Medical Corps Launches Nutrition Program in Haiti

February 4, 2010

By Tyler Marshall

International Medical Corps this week began delivering high energy biscuits and ready-to-use food supplement to children’s homes in Port au Prince, marking the start of a three month project to head off a possible crisis of malnutrition among orphans and other vulnerable children.

The maiden shipment, to the House of the Children of God home in northern Port au Prince, was for the home’s 53 resident children, nearly two thirds of whom are under 3.

The home’s director, Pierre Rebe Blain, welcomed the shipment, calling it “extremely helpful”.

“This is what we need to complete the meals we provide,” Blain said. He added that he had been forced to refuse shelter for about 80 children per month in recent months because he didn’t have enough food. While it is too early to assess the impact of the Jan. 12th earthquake on malnutrition, International Medical Corps efforts focus on preventing deterioration among the country’s most vulnerable populations.

Most residents at his home, Blain said are what he calls “half-orphans” – children abandoned by one parent—whose remaining parent have given their child up because they cannot sustain a normal household. The remaining parent--most often the mother-are allowed one visit every two months. More would be too disruptive, Blain explained.

A tour of the facility turned up three infants that International Medical Corps nutritionist KD Ladd identified as potentially malnourished. They were immediately referred to a therapeutic center for special treatment.

The initial delivery was in many ways a pilot run and the snags involved were a reminder of the challenges presented when delivering assistance to the victims of the earthquake. The International Medical Corps nutrition team, including Ladd and International Medical Corps volunteer registered dietitian Shana Patterson were held up for nearly two hours by the city’s grid-locked traffic and a demonstration, ironically, protesting the lack of food distribution.

That and other, minor delays, in no way comprised the project, however they did remind all involved of the enormity of the task ahead.