Reproducing Inequities: Poverty and the Politics of Population in Haiti

By M. Catherine Matemowska | Go to book overview

4
The Family Planning Center
A Clinic in Conflict

Perhaps the most critical transaction of all in family planning programs is
that between the program and the client, for all others ultimately revolve
around that nexus. If this transaction fails, the program will fail with it.

–Donald Warwick, Bitter Pills

There had been no electricity in Haiti for month-long stretches during the embargo of 1994; March 30 was no exception. Inside the clinic it was a typical afternoon: hot, sticky, and very still. The staff sat on their metal folding chairs, staring blankly, waiting for the doctors to arrive. The nurse, preparing cotton balls and alcohol, exclaimed that it was too hot to move. Nine women from the community, referred to by the staff as kliyan (clients), sat on hard wooden benches in the waiting room. Some were dressed in clothes reserved for Sunday mass and doctor's visits. Others were too poor and wore rags. All came to the clinic for more pills, another Depo-Provera shot, or relief from irregular bleeding or itching and burning “down there.” Each hoped that the doctor would allay her discomfort.

The doctors saw the clients upstairs. The two Haitian doctors were tall and heavy by national standards. They always looked neat and cool when they arrived in their crisp clothing and inevitably they, too, commented on how hot the clinic was. They spoke impeccable French. Their Creole, unlike that of the poor women who attend the clinic, was studded with French phrases, confirming that they were both urban-born and educated. One of the doctors marked his clients' charts with a fancy gold pen. Work in Cité Soleil, while uncomfortable and often bothersome, paid well. Haitian doctors are frustrated by a consistent lack of supplies and little credit for the work they do. They are clearly bored, repeating the same instructions for several hours each afternoon. Both of the doctors held jobs in other medical practices, and the job in Cité Soleil was really only for the extra cash it brought. Doctors working for the Centers for Health and Development (CDS, its French acronym) were compensated for their “hardship posts.”

-75-

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