Espwa Berlancia – Malnutrition in Haiti


“I will fight… what you were fighting.”

“Emano came to me in the late afternoon, the setting sun reflecting off the deep shadows of protruding bones. I gathered his 20lbs in my arms and something inside of me cracked.

I hold a lot of malnourished babies. Most of them live but many do not. I hold them and I meet their needs and I disassociate when I have to because if I didn’t I couldn’t do this. This “job” that doesn’t end at 5pm, this job that both fills and destroys my heart. Emano broke me wide open. I couldn’t stop the wave of love I had for him with all the strength of my flesh. Disassociation wasn’t an option. I knew that this was going to hurt like hell. I knew the pain that was likely, but I was powerless to hold it at bay.

I heard the news as I was sitting down to breakfast early on Sunday morning. The food we had prepared turned to sawdust in my mouth and it was all I could do to choke down the bite I had taken. I wanted to scream, to take out all my anger at the injustice of this world on a plate of eggs. I wanted to hate food. I wanted to throw it against the wall and curse it and blame it for the death of every baby I have held and loved and watched slip away.

Instead, I got up from the table where my own children filled their bellies and I collapsed into the corner of their tiny playroom off the kitchen, trying to stifle my sobs.

Emano was dead. Not a malnourished foreign child. Emano.

Once you have seen the shuddering and groaning and pain of starvation you will never forget it. Once you’ve watched it tear through the frail body of a 5-year-old child the image will be burned in your mind forever. Once you realize that thing you do every day without even thinking about is the thing that would have saved his life, you will never, ever be able to erase that from your mind and you will never, ever be the same. You will never be able to turn off that burning desire to kill what killed him.”

Learn more about Espwa Berlancia in Haiti!


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