Downton Abbey star Laura Carmichael has told of her heartbreak after travelling to Haiti this week (ends29Sep13) to meet orphans and survivors of the 2010 earthquake which ravaged the nation.

The actress, who plays Lady Edith on the hit period drama, flew to the country on a charity mission organised by The Haiti Hospital Appeal, visiting a 70-bed medical centre in Cap-Haitien, which treated 11,000 patients last year (12).

Carmichael admits she was "truly humbled" after witnessing the efforts of doctors who have set up special units to help locals cope after the devastating disaster.

In a column for Britain's Sunday Mirror, she writes, "In the paediatric unit I was introduced to a fragile abandoned baby struggling for life. Bety had the life-threatening condition ­hydrocephalus. As she was placed in my arms, I could feel my heart beating through my chest. Despite (the doctor's) valiant efforts, this baby had a minimal chance of survival. In the U.K., hydrocephalus can usually be controlled. It was the first of many times I had to take a breath to stop the tears."

She adds, "While they will do everything in their power to save this fragile life, the medical team explain that it's common for children to die needlessly every day. The children treated at this paediatric unit at least stand a chance."

Carmichael is calling on her fans to give generously to a new initiative she is backing: "I'm now helping to launch

A Royal Birth - a campaign to provide women and babies in Haiti with safe births. Coming here has challenged me. I realise that like many others I had moved on too quickly from the ­devastating images of 2010. Sunday Mirror readers were ­incredibly generous at pledging support in the aftermath of the ­quake, but the country needs our help now more than ever."