PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Whitney Joselene lay in a near catatonic state in a tent at the General Hospital, her legs twig-thin, skin blotchy, eyes glassy. When a nurse inadvertently bumped her metal crib, the 9-month-old didn't even twitch.
Within hours, she was dead.
"There's nothing we could've done for her at that time," said Daphne Lamarre, a nurse. "It was too late."
Whitney died Feb. 24 of malnutrition complicated by pneumonia, and food and nutrition experts in Haiti worry that cases like hers will increase as the quake-battered country struggles to provide adequate shelter, potable water and sanitary living conditions for tens of thousands of children living in camps.
Although nurses and food experts say it's still too early to determine the extent of malnutrition cases, they say it's a growing problem as Haitians cope with squalor in tent cities, unhealthy food preparation and the rupture of livelihood in a country where hunger has been a perennial concern.
Shifting from emergency response to more long-term relief, humanitarian groups in Haiti are trying to stamp out future cases. Agencies such as the United Nations World Food Program are giving high-energy biscuits to pregnant and nursing mothers and nutrient-rich peanut paste to children with severe acute malnutrition. They also are trying to teach camp dwellers about how to prepare food where hygiene and clean water are scant.