PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The old lady crawls in the dirt, wailing for her pills. The elderly man lies motionless as rats pick at his overflowing diaper.
There is no food, water or medicine for the 85 surviving residents of the Port-au-Prince Municipal Nursing Home, barely a mile from the airport where a massive international aid effort is taking shape.
"Help us, help us," 69-year-old Mari-Ange Levee begged Sunday, lying on the ground with a broken leg and ribs. A cluster of flies swarmed the open fracture in her skull.
One man has already died, and administrator Jean Emmanuel said more would follow soon unless water and food arrive immediately.
"I appeal to anybody to bring us anything, or others won't live until tonight," he said, motioning toward five men and women who were having trouble breathing, a sign that the end was near.
The dead man was Joseph Julien, a 70-year-old diabetic who was pulled from the partially collapsed building and passed away Thursday for lack of food.
His rotting body lies on a mattress, nearly indistinguishable from the living around him, so skinny and tired they seemed to be simply waiting for death.
With six residents killed in the quake, the institution now has 25 men and 60 women camped outside their former home. Some have a mattress in the dirt to lie on. Others don't.
Madeleine Dautriche, 75, said some of the residents had pooled their money to buy three packets of pasta, which the dozens of pensioners shared on Thursday, their last meal. Since there was no drinking water, some didn't touch the noodles because they were cooked in gutter water.
Dautriche noted that many residents wore diapers that hadn't been changed since the quake.
"The problem is, rats are coming to it," she said.
Though very little food aid had reached Haitians anywhere by Sunday, Emmanuel said the problem was made worse at the nursing home because it is located near Place de la Paix, an impoverished downtown neighborhood.
Thousands of homeless slum dwellers have pitched their makeshift tents on the nursing home's ground, in effect shielding off the elderly patients from the outside world with a tense maize of angry people, themselves hungry and thirsty.
"I'm pleading for everyone to understand that there's a truce right now, the streets are free, so you can come through to help us," said Emmanuel, 27, one of the rare officials not to have fled the squalor and mayhem. He insisted that foreign aid workers wouldn't be in danger if they tried to cross through the crowd to reach the elderly group.
An AP reporter saw violent scuffles erupt Saturday in the adjacent soccer stadium when U.S. helicopters dropped boxes of military rations and Gatorade. But none of this trickle of help had reached the nursing home residents, who said some refugees have robbed them of what little they had.
Dautriche, who was sitting on the ground because of her broken back, held out an empty blue plastic basin. "My underwear and my money were in there," she said, sobbing. "Children stole it right in front of me and I couldn't move."
The area was an eery corner of silence within the clamor of crying babies and toddlers running naked in the mud. Guarding the little space was Phileas Julien, 78, a blind man in a wheelchair who was shouting at anybody approaching to turn around.
During moments of lucidity, Julien said he was better off than other pensioners because he was feeding off his own medicine. A moment later, he seemed to be loosing his mind and threw his arms out to grab a passer-by, who he then mistook for his grandson.
Also trying to guard the vicinity was Jacqueline Thermiti, 71, who couldn't stand up because of the pain but threateningly waived her walking stick at approaching children.
"Of all the wars and revolutions and hurricanes, this quake is the worst thing God has ever sent us," Thermiti said.
Initially, Thermiti and other believed their relatives would likely come to feed them, because many live in the slums nearby. "But I don't even know if my children are alive," she said.
Though Thermiti and her friends haven't eaten since Tuesday, she remained impressively feisty. She said that's because she had already spent five days without eating during previous hardships.
"But I was younger, and now there's no water either," she said, predicting that — unlike other pensioners — she could still hold out for at least another day.
"Then if the foreigners don't come (with aid)," she said, "it will be up to baby Jesus."