Jean Valbuen, his daughter Angeline Valbuen and grandson James ExumeEd Kenney

Visiting La Gonave’s largest hospital, I met a family whose story brought home the dilemma facing the island since the earthquake.

La Gonave, an island off the Haitian coast, has seen 16,000 new arrivals since the earthquake. Elected official Esper Feno told us:

“These are our brothers and sisters and we welcome them, but there’s not enough food, not enough water, nor enough jobs to support all of us. We will need help.”

Jeaninie’s story

From there, we visited Wesleyan Hospital. There we met Jeaninie Mascelin, a very thin older woman lying motionless on a bed in the middle of the hospital courtyard. Jeaninie is one of the many who have come to this island after surviving the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. She said:

"I remember hearing a very loud noise and then I don't remember anything until my neighbours were shouting at me and pulling me from where I was buried. The whole house was down. I knew that I couldn't stand up and walk and I started to worry about my kids, but I was alive and they were all alive."

Jeaninie – still unable to walk – was essentially carried to the island by Valner, her eldest son, and his brothers in law.

Joined by the family

At the hospital, Jeaninie refused an indoor bed. If another qauke happened, she didn’t want to be buried again.

When I met Jeaninie, she'd been lying in the courtyard for 10 days, with no diagnosis and no treatment. She had not been able to eat or move her right leg the entire time. The staff had only been able to offer pain medicine. US Marines and Navy doctors are evacuating critical cases to a hospital ship in the bay; it’s likely that she will be taken there soon.

"I am afraid," said Valner, "I don't know what is wrong with my mother but I also don't want to know. It may be too bad."

“No resources to share”

Jeaninie’s husband, Jean, looked to the future:

"We have been well-received here, with affection, but the people here have no resources to share. We have water for now but we need to ask for food and there is not much to share. We do have hope. We have hope because you [Concern] are here...and because I am ok and I can work. My kids are ok and they can work too. For now we plan to stay on La Gonave and I plan to find a job. All I need is a little bit of land where I will build a house. First, of course, my wide needs medical care, but I think if I can work we can make a life here. If not, and we have to go another place, we will go. But we do not plan to go back to Port-au-Prince"