Story Publication logo October 7, 2010

Little Girl Lost


Media file: Nadine.jpg

Last January's earthquake destroyed Haiti's health care system, once at the forefront of the...

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors

This pregnant belly seems too large for the little girl's frame. She is just 14, and keeps her face curled down as she speaks, so that her long nose almost touches the belly that swells beneath her blue, purple, white and yellow dress.

She tells her story so quietly that at first I can barely hear her. For comfort, she winds a white washcloth through her fingers, twisting it, squeezing it, over and over.

Her house collapsed during the earthquake, and a cement block fell on her mother, damaging her legs. Her mother cannot work, so this little girl lives in a tent in the Perou camp with her aunt. But from the way she speaks—she says over and over again, "I have no one"—it is clear that her aunt and mother care little for her, and she is basically on her own.

This baby she is carrying is the result of a rape. She went out to buy some food, and on her way back to her tent, was stopped by three men. When she tried to fight them off, they beat her. Two of them raped her. And that is how she became pregnant.

She did not go to the police, because she'd heard from others that the police do not help women who have been raped. She went, by herself, to the hospital to make sure that she did not have any sexually transmitted diseases.

"I told my mother, but she couldn't do anything for me. As we have a free hospital, I went there," she says.

While the girl was happy to hear that she was not infected with HIV, the relief was short-lived, as two months later, when she realized that she hadn't had her period since the rape, she went to the clinic again and discovered she was pregnant. She wept, because she cannot even properly take care of herself, let alone a child. She was desperate, but she could not do anything.

"I have no choice," she says. "I don't have money to buy the medicine to cause an abortion, so I have no choice."

In order to support herself, this 14-year-old girl works as a prostitute. The men give her the equivalent of $2.50 to $3. Sometimes they pay, sometimes they don't.

She cries as she tells this part of the story, but still speaks calmly, her raspy voice steady. I ask her what she will do once she has her baby, and she shrugs.

"A little girl of 14 is supposed to be in school, and no one is helping me. My mother cannot help me. So, what can I say?" she says.

She wants to go to school after she has her baby, because right now, she says, she has no future. She cannot even spell her own name.

We give her and the other girls she came with money for a taxi—there were four girls in all, all teenage sex workers who do what they do because there is no other way for them to survive—and they head off into the night.

It feels horrible to be so helpless, to witness such deep sadness and desperation in the eyes of a pregnant child, and to not be able to do anything. Giving her money is only a temporary fix, as it will run out. And one day very soon, in addition to the displacement, the hunger, and all that comes with living in post-quake Port-au-Prince, she will have the burdens that come with being an impoverished single mother.


navy halftone illustration of a female doctor with her arms crossed


Health Inequities

Health Inequities
navy halftone illustration of a group of pharmaceutical pills


Outbreaks and Epidemics

Outbreaks and Epidemics

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues