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O'Brien: Quake's littlest victims cling to life -- barely

By Soledad O'Brien and Rose Arce, CNN
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The children of Haiti
  • Director of Maison des Enfants de Dieu orphanage fears children will start dying
  • Bugs are everywhere, and there's not much for the children to eat
  • Dire situation is repeated at other orphanages visited by Soledad O'Brien, CNN crew
  • Haiti
  • Earthquakes
  • Port-au-Prince

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- We went to see orphanages Monday. One was called Maison des Enfants de Dieu -- House of the Children of God. The house is still standing, but the children are afraid to go back in.

The toddlers, barefoot and covered with dust, are huddled under a huge tarp. Most sit calmly, but a few come and wrap their arms around our legs and smile.

There are bugs everywhere and not much to eat. Armed bandits scaled the walls twice this week and found so little to steal that they left empty-handed.

The director, Pierre Alexis, tells me he is afraid children will get sick and die if they don't get help soon. The building seems sound, and there is a lot of staff. He has charities in the U.S. that help him. We play with the kids and embrace optimism.

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Then we come upon the truck. Twenty five babies under a year old are in the back, laying on cardboard and paper. The orphanage keeps running out of formula, so they have fed them water and powdered milk.

As we talk to one of the caretakers, a girl erupts with diarrhea. She wipes her off with the dress of another little girl. One baby gags. Others spit up. It's hot. Flies settle on their faces and heads.

These babies are very vulnerable. All of us working this particular story have children, so we have a frame of reference. We all murmur that these children will dehydrate quickly. They will catch colds. They will be bitten by mosquitoes. Pierre has reason to be frightened.

The situation is repeated at other orphanages. We go to one called Bresma.

U.S. works to expedite orphans

The toddlers are all outside, but the infants lie listless inside, many suffering from dehydration. A nurse jabs a little girl in the wrist, then a foot and a wrist again. She needs to start an IV and can't find a vein.

Another person tries. We try to help by holding her hands. She cries out in pain. They try again. No vein. It's excruciating.

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She is cold, and her skin is wrinkled and thin. Finally a doctor tries and catches a vein. Fluids flow, and she is placed in a crib. They move on to the next baby.

There are so many babies, so much suffering.

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