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June 27, 1986

Incident in Haiti

Author Affiliations

Oconomowoc, Wis

JAMA. 1986;255(24):3408. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370240078043

I saw her standing in line one afternoon in the hot Haitian sun, a young woman, perhaps 18 or 19 years old, with an infant cradled in her arms. Her tiny child was bundled up in many layers of clothes and a kerchief despite the searing heat, a custom the Haitians believe helps in fontanelle closure. This woman, along with several hundred other villagers, was patiently waiting in long lines to be seen by the American doctors and other health professionals who were staffing a local clinic for two weeks. Many people had walked for miles to seek medical attention, and some of the sicker people had been transported to the clinic by burro or dugout canoe.

The numbers of people were almost endless and, as the clinic closed each day, the line was already formed with the next day's patients, who would wait through the night. Often the staff