Flies swarmed around Christiane Carystil's inflamed leg, yet despite her moans for help, there wasn't much the 87-year-old could do to get anyone's attention.
Even outside the crumbled remains of the Asile Communale — the city's main senior nursing home — personal attention is hard to come by for many elderly trying to survive in a post-earthquake society.
"The needs are many, but the people are few," said Andree Devilas, one of the workers at the nursing home.
Haiti's elderly have had to make do with aid efforts primarily geared toward children and adults. Elders without teeth must try to eat hard protein biscuits distributed by United Nations relief workers or whole-grain cereals that their bodies no longer digest properly. "In the rush to distribute help as quickly as possible, these details can sadly get lost," said Cynthia Powell, spokeswoman for HelpAge, an international group that provides aid to seniors throughout the world.
Since arriving in Haiti shortly after the Jan. 12 earthquake, HelpAge has taken over much of the day-to-day duties at the Asile Communale and continues to mobilize efforts to assist seniors living in tent cities throughout Port-au-Prince, Petit Goave and Leogne.
The group has provided financial support to eight church-run nursing homes that oversee 400 seniors, and has set up protective areas at certain camps to cluster together seniors needing attention. They have also launched a radio campaign urging families not to forsake their elder relatives.
Still, HelpAge workers are concerned that in a country where need is so widespread, the elderly continue to be overlooked.
"There have been reported incidents of abandonment of older people in camps," said Rosaleen Cunningham, spokeswoman for HelpAge. "Concerns have also been raised of older people being at increased risk and unable to protect their belongings and themselves."
At Asile Communal, Clairevana Desbrosses, 87, holds onto an amber bottle half filled with medicine to ease the shooting pains she's been feeling in her abdomen. With medicine in short supply, she fears that someone might take the bottle when she's not paying attention.
"I am not OK," she shouts repeatedly.
She is one of the nursing home's 42 residents forced outdoors when one of two main dormitories crumbled. The residents, several over 90, share living space with the nearly 100 families who have set up camp on the nursing home's sprawling lawn.
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