By Mara Schiavocampo, NBC Nightly News digital correspondent
Last week I was in Haiti covering the aftermath of four fierce storms that slammed the island nation in less than a month. (You can view my first report be clicking on the photo below.) We were based in Gonaives, one of the hardest hit areas. By the time we got there it had been three weeks since the last storm, and people were still living on their roofs, their houses full of mud and water.
Those people were the "lucky" ones, as they still had a house to live on. Many more--tens of thousands--lost absolutely everything, and are living in shelters around the city. We met one woman in a shelter who was wearing a slip as a dress. She told me that her slip and underwear were all she had, and even those things had been donated.
Knee-high mud still covers much of the city. From the smell of the mud, it's likely mixed with sewage. Pools of fetid water, like little lakes, were scattered about. We had the luxury of having brought wading boots. Most of the locals walked around barefoot or wearing regular sneakers. Doctors Without Borders told me they're treating a lot of cuts and infections from people wading through mud barefoot.
As we were packing up to go, we decided to leave our water behind: two cases of half-liter bottles. We thought it would be wise to give them to a group of nuns who live and work in Gonaives, as they would know the best way to distribute them. As we carried the cases from the car to the nuns, a group formed nearby. They were asking for water. Then they were shouting for water. Then they started arguing with one another about who should get the water. One young man I had introduced myself to didn't speak English, but he remembered my name. He kept calling out to me over and over. We got the water to the nuns and they put the cases inside a building, to be distributed when things settled down. All of that commotion for about two cups of water, something that means so little to most of us in the U.S., some seven hundred miles away.
There are rarely light moments in such awful circumstances. But I saw a pig that briefly made me chuckle. He was rolling around in all the muck, happy as a pig in you-know-what. I remember thinking "that pig is the only one happy here."
Editor's note: Click on the photo above to watch Mara's report from Sept. 26, "Little aid making it's way to storm-stricken Haiti." Watch NBC Nightly News tonight for our report about some of the volunteers who are there "Making a Difference."