Friday, March 16, 2007

The View from Inside

The View from Inside
By Dr. John A. Carroll
January 31st, 2007
UPDATED: February 1, 2007 @ 2:03 am

It was 5 PM in Cite Soleil. The 15 month old baby boy had a good morning in the malnutrition program and mom just finished giving the baby his bath from the water in the big plastic bowl. They live in a one room shack with another family in this slum in Haiti.

Even though he only weighs 12 pounds, mom looked at him and could see that he is bigger. His arms and legs have a little meat on them now and his face has a more animated expression. He still won’t walk but he seems to move more.After his bath, which he seemed to like, she dried him off with a small blue towel and placed him on the bed in the room. Yes, her baby was getting bigger.

Mom was happy.

However, right after the bath, she heard gunshots close by and she immediately put the baby down on the floor. A bullet ripped threw her wall and she ran for the baby. She saw the flattened bullet that was buried in the blue towel.

When she ripped the towel off the baby, she expected the worse. But her baby boy just looked at her and smiled. He was not hurt. The wall and blue towel had somehow stopped the bullet.

Yesterday, I walked to the end of Cite Soleil. I wanted to see their home from the inside.

The end of Soleil is where the slum meets the ocean. It is also where the baby with the blue towel exists. People really don’t live here. They just exist and are viewed as subhuman forms of life that may have just crawled out of the brown Bay of Port-au-Prince. Most Haitians have never been here and have no plans of visiting.

Two UN tanks passed me as I walked and they turned down the last paved street to the left. This was where I turned also. The first tank went all the way down the street and the second tank waited on the corner. There were about 5 UN soldiers on each tank with their weapons aimed at the neighborhood houses and any gang members that may be hiding inside.

I stopped at the home of the baby. Two families live inside the one room. The front door is a sheet. The wall on the ocean side was made of concrete and the wall opposite to that seemed to be made of a heavy cardboard. Both walls are pockmarked with bullets that have been fired by gangs and the UN.

The baby’s mother told me they had recently moved to this location because there was too much shooting where they were before. I wondered if they had just come from Baghdad?

There was a small window on the south side and I could hear the UN tank slowly coming back up the street. I moved toward the window and quickly snapped this photo. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the UN troops seeing something silver slide out of a small window.

Just think if you looked out of your window in Peoria and saw a tank with five armed soldiers with their automatic weapons just a few feet away aimed at your house and your kids. How would that make you feel? Just think if they didn’t speak English and knew nothing of you or your family’s situation. Just think if you had no food or clean water, had no electricity, had no job, and you couldn’t read and write, and you had absolutely no where to run when the bullets start ripping through your walls.

That is exactly the situation in Soleil. Every day here is a challenge for food, water, and survival. Nothing is easy in Soleil especially for mothers who wrap their babies in blue towels.

September 20, 2007:

The baby pictured above survived the bullets in Soleil but died from a respiratory illness in the spring.


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