Access to quality healthcare is precarious even under the best of circumstances in Haiti. Oftentimes, individuals and families in rural communities have to pay to travel far distances to healthcare facilities that are commonly undersupplied and understaffed. Knowing this, the Colorado Haiti Project founded its relationship with Petit Trou in the provision of health services. For many years, medical teams from Colorado would venture out to this community to provide much needed care. However, after this relationship continued to evolve, it became clear that CHP’s efforts would go farther if we were to support and strengthen the health care system that exists within Haiti. As a result, CHP began partnering with the community of Petit Trou, with the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population (MSPP); and other local organizations to strengthen access to quality healthcare for all in the community of Petit Trou. These efforts have included:
Building the capacity of community health care providers and clinic staff through specific hands-on trainings including sessions on community mapping and birthing techniques
Developing relationships with the staff at the local clinic and regional MSPP offices in order to coordinate and implement health care efforts
Providing supplies and financial support for the local MSPP clinic
One of our most unique and active contributions to the strengthening of the region’s healthcare system has been the training and salary support of Community Health Aides. Health aides are an important addition to the health care system because there are simply not enough health agents to provide knowledge and preventative efforts to the population. Though aides are not recognized formally by the Ministry of Health, they can assist agents at vaccine rallies and other important community health events. Another strength of the health aide program is that the aides are all women while the health agents are primarily men. Females in the community may be more likely to divulge women’s health issues to a female community health aide rather than a male community health agent.
A number of the health aides have worked in collaboration with the local clinic’s head nurse on a purely volunteer basis. This synergy with the formal health care system has allowed our organization to work together with this nurse and support her health campaigns in the community. Additionally, the training of the community health aides has raised up these women in the community and given them status that most of them did not have before. Many of these women now not only care for their neighborhoods in the context of health but also have grown the confidence to serve as leaders in other capacities. For instance, some of these women are presidents of Well Committees. Others are leaders in agricultural associations and have been integral in post-hurricane response. Working closely with these community health aides has allowed Colorado Haiti Project to support a network of positive influence in the community.
September of 2016 marked the beginning of training for 20 new community health agents- formalized community health workers in Haiti’s health system. These agents were certified and began to work in March of this year. This will double the amount of trained polyvalent Health Agents and therefore increase access to healthcare in the community. We have committed to paying out a year’s worth of their salary. After this first year, the Ministry of Health will take on the responsibility of paying their salaries and therefore will sustain this important facet of this rural health care system as well as the training and careers of these individuals.