DISPATCH: The Road To Saint-Marc : Shots - Health News Haitians have shown extraordinary resilience -- or perhaps it's that they are hardened. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports from the scene of a horrific traffic accident on the way to Saint-Marc, where the cholera epidemic got its start.
NPR logo The Road To Saint-Marc

The Road To Saint-Marc

Two trucks crashed on a road toward Saint-Marc in Haiti. One truck was carrying Coke bottles, the other was full of people. The head-on collision knocked the bed off the back of one truck, killing several and injuring many more. Christopher Joyce/NPR hide caption

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Christopher Joyce/NPR

Two trucks crashed on a road toward Saint-Marc in Haiti. One truck was carrying Coke bottles, the other was full of people. The head-on collision knocked the bed off the back of one truck, killing several and injuring many more.

Christopher Joyce/NPR

There is a song lyric that goes, "If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all." Were it not cruel to do so, it might well be added to the Haitian national anthem.

Poverty, political strife and corruption, an earthquake from hell, and now cholera. It's surprising here, since cholera hasn't reared itself in Haiti since the 1960s. Yet it's not surprising that once it did, it grew like kudzu.

In Saint-Marc, where the epidemic started, the streets and gutters run with water even on dry days. People live on top of each other, and you can tell with your nose that the sewage system is far from watertight.

That's what scares people about the future. While cases are down in Saint-Marc, they are probably lurking elsewhere. The country and the flock of aid groups that are attached to Haiti like birds on a buffalo’s back are frantically spreading the hygiene message to get people to keep clean and keep water and sewage apart.

In a country so poor, with so little money for even simple things, it's a huge task.

Yet Haitians have extraordinary resilience — or perhaps it's that they are hardened. I saw it on the way to Saint-Marc. The worst traffic accident imaginable.

Two trucks, one carrying Coke bottles, the other carrying perhaps 20 people, all standing in a makeshift structure on the truck bed. The head-on collision knocked the bed off the truck, reduced the chassis to an upright sculpture of twisted metal, and threw people into the street. Several lay dead.  Blood and gasoline pooled together.

Survivors covered their faces and wept. But while passersby helped to rescue the injured, drivers and their passengers calmly cleared the road and drove on.  No police cars, no ambulances, fire trucks, EMT crews. Whoever could help helped. The rest cast a sad eye on another bit of hardship and kept going.

There is little time to contemplate one's fate here. Survival is a full-time job.