Image: Elderly Haitian woman begs for food
Julie Jacobson  /  AP
An elderly woman begs for food from people passing by as she lays with other senior citizens outside their collapsed nursing home in Port-au-Prince, on Sunday.
updated 1/21/2010 2:52:07 AM ET 2010-01-21T07:52:07

More than a week after their nursing home collapsed, dozens of elderly Haitians are still begging for food and medicine in a downtown Port-au-Prince slum barely a mile from the international airport where tons of aid are pouring in.

"It's as if everybody has forgotten us, nobody cares," said Phileas Julien, 78, a sometimes delirious blind man in a wheelchair who has appointed himself spokesman for the 84 surviving residents. "Or maybe they really do just want us to starve to death."

The Jan. 12 earthquake killed six residents and two more have since died of hunger and exhaustion. Several more were barely clinging to life Wednesday evening. They struggle to survive in the midst of a squalid camp that was created in the hospice's garden by people who fled the quake's destruction.

Life for the residents has improved a bit since Sunday, when some of their new neighbors pulled beds out of the home and into the open so the elderly didn't have to sleep on the ground with rats scampering by.

Some relatives and volunteers have made small food offerings and helped wash and medicate the worse-off patients. An Associated Press reporter has brought a case of bottles of water every day since discovering their plight Sunday.

On Monday, the Brazilian aid group Viva Rio brought in a large tanker of drinking water, the first large-scale aid for the 59 women and 25 men left from the nursing home.

'So, so hungry'
John Lebrun, one of the nursing home's cleaners, also brought a 110-pound bag of rice that was cooked the same day.

"I found it in a storage house nearby," he said. He wouldn't elaborate on how he secured such a costly item: that much rice now costs $60 amid shortages. Lebrun grinned and said evasively that it came from a "broken" store — one damaged in the quake.

The plain, boiled rice Monday was the pensioners' first meal since the earthquake. They have not eaten since.

"We're hungry, we're so, so hungry," lamented 77-year-old Felicie Colin, one of those who still had enough energy to speak intelligibly at sunset Wednesday.

Dying tucked away
Lebrun pointed at two pensioners who had been unconscious for days, tucked in a corner so their slow, silent departure wouldn't affect the others too much.

Video: Haiti's hobbled government gives little guidance "My friends, they need medicine so badly," said nurse Jesula Maurice, shaking her head.

Maurice came to check on her ailing brother at the hospice and said she had worked around the clock for days stitching up wounds and cleaning cuts of all the quake victims she could help. A pharmacist gave her two suitcases of basic medicine, but the supplies quickly ran out.

"There's such a desperate need for antibiotics here," Maurice said.

She expressed anger at the seeming lack of outside interest in the residents of the nursing home, which is close to the areas around the collapsed presidential palace and Roman Catholic cathedral, which teem with journalists and international rescue teams.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Haiti MD: 'We are their only hope'

  1. Closed captioning of: Haiti MD: 'We are their only hope'

    >> in port-au-prince. as we saw there, human life in haiti is largely taking place outdoors with little, if any shelter, especially with these aftershocks. our chief science correspondent robert bazell reports on how one group of haitian doctors are trying to cope with the enormous challenges of providing water, food, sanitation and health care under these awful circumstances.

    >> reporter: this camp of homeless could show haiti's best path forward, but the challenges are enormous. the people are living on the grounds of a clinic, an age treatment facility, well known to the residents of this area that was horribly poor before the quake.

    >> i can guarantee you, it's going to get messy.

    >> reporter: the director is on the faculty of wile cornell medical center in new york. why did you transform it into a refugee senter?

    >> we had no choice. those people came in, they lost their home, they lost everything they had, and we are their only hope.

    >> we have some burn cases.

    >> reporter: friday, 750 people were on the ground. there are now 4,000 people here during the day, 5,000 sleeping at night. everybody expects those numbers to grow much larger as word gets around water, food and medical care is available here. before the clinic was doing its best to treat many injured, now two u.s. mobile medical teams are here, but coordination is a huge challenge. this woman is being sent to another facility for surgery on a broken hip, but no one can be sure there will be space there.

    >> we need to make sure that we know how many hospitals are working, what are they capable of doing?

    >> reporter: so far the people living here have gotten little food, even though the clinic has it to give out.

    >> there would be tremendous riots if we did, so now we are using it as strategy.

    >> reporter: the plan identified women like this who is getting some food from relatives in the country. the clinic will hire these women to cook the clinic's food for everyone, so the food will be distributed widely and peacefully throughout the camp. the next challenges are sanitation. typhoid is a huge threat and tents that could rain any time.

    >> a brand-new baby today. baby and mother are doing fine.

    >> reporter: but the clinic staff remains optimistic. it will soon stabilize the situation. robert bazell , nbc news, port-au-prince.

    >>> now back here at home,

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