Terrier Rouge is one of the 13 municipalities of Haiti’s Nord-Est Department, the capital of which is Fort-Liberté located near the border of the Dominican Republic. An estimated 36,000 people live in Terrier Rouge, an area roughly 60 square miles, about the same size as St. Louis. It contains 15 small villages and many more women than men. According to a 2009 census, 39% of the population of Terrier Rouge is under the age of 15; people aged 15-64 account for 53.4%, and those aged 65 and over 7.6%. Agriculture and livestock farming are the main economic activities in the area, with the main crops being corn, potatoes, cassava, pigeon peas, and sisal.
Prior to the arrival of COVID-19 in the Nord-Est Department, about 40% of new mothers managed to breastfeed exclusively. When the pandemic reached Haiti, forcing the shut- down of the country’s borders, access to food (and food diversity) became increasingly scarce. This new normal has left breastfeeding mothers without access to enough food to produce adequate milk for their children, leaving the babies lacking proper nutritional intake as well.
Prior to the pandemic, in the Nord-Est Department, 66% of children were living with anemia and 36% of children under the age of 5 were malnourished. That was before the borders, ports, and airports were closed. It is important to note that the country has been mainly relying on imports over the past 10 years, with food coming from the Dominican Republic via Dajabon, a Dominican town next to the northeast border with Haiti.
Families living in Terrier-Rouge were already surviving in extreme poverty. With the arrival of this pandemic in March 2020, life and livelihood have been paralyzed due to the closure of Haiti’s borders and with the absence of government assistance. The children are completely neglected thus the medical team of Clinique Espérance et Vie is dedicated to providing health and nutritional assistance to the children of the area. Unfortunately, we do not yet have the data to know how children are faring against COVID-19 in Terrier Rouge. And we do not have the testing or medicines to diagnose and care for children suspected of having the virus. We will continue to raise awareness in our community in order to protect children as much as possible while promising to provide their families with medical care, quality food, and face masks.
Dr. Bendson Louima
Medical Director, Clinique Espérance et Vie