Port-Au-Prince Journal: An Old Man Wants Out

Yves Malbranche i i

Yves Malbranche, 86, lies on a mattress outside his house in the Carrefour-Feuilles district of Port-au-Prince. Malbranche says he is an American citizen who formerly lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is ill and hopes to be evacuated to the U.S. Corey Flintoff/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Corey Flintoff/NPR
Yves Malbranche

Yves Malbranche, 86, lies on a mattress outside his house in the Carrefour-Feuilles district of Port-au-Prince. Malbranche says he is an American citizen who formerly lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is ill and hopes to be evacuated to the U.S.

Corey Flintoff/NPR

Among the more than 40,000 Americans who were living in Haiti when the earthquake struck are many Haitian-Americans. Some are older people who retired to the country of their birth to live cheaply and be close to their families.

I encountered one such man in a wrecked hillside slum in Port-au-Prince. My producer, Amy Walters, and I were interviewing people clustered on the street in the district called Carrefour-Feuilles. A man slipped through the crowd to claim our attention.

"There's an American lying here," he told our interpreter. "He's very sick. They call for American people to come in, and he would like to go. He's so sick, but they cannot help him."

Ill And Homeless

The man led the way through a courtyard jammed with people who had lost their homes. The American was an 86-year-old man lying on a mattress, his lower body naked under a thin blanket. A plastic tube trailed out from under the cover, emptying into a urine-spattered bucket.

He was hard of hearing, confused and irritated by the crowd around him. In response to shouted questions from an interpreter, he said his name was Yves Malbranche.

He was frail, speaking mostly Haitian Creole, but when asked where he came from, he spoke up in English. "Belmont Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. Senior citizen!"

A naturalized American citizen, too, he said, though his passport has expired and he somehow never got around to renewing it. He said proudly that he does have his Medicare and Social Security cards.

Yearning For The U.S.

Malbranche said he moved back to Haiti in 2004 to live with a brother who has since died of cancer.

A neighbor, Marie-Carmel Bartelme, said that she was helping to take care of him. She said he has a nephew in the U.S. who helped arrange for his medical care in the past, but since the earthquake no one has been able to contact him.

Bartolme said Malbranche is sleeping outside because his house is damaged and too dangerous to stay in.

It was noisy, crowded and dirty in the courtyard. Annoyed, Malbranche shooed away a crowd of curious children.

He said he regrets the decision to come back to his homeland and only wants one thing. "I wanted to see my country, Haiti, but I see how bad the country is," he said. "I want to go back to the United States."

Malbranche is old and ill, lying outside a house he can't use, in a ruined, chaotic city. He's a senior citizen — an American citizen. And he wants to go home.

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