Haiti’s Health Forecast: Cloudy, Occasionally Stormy, but Improving

by Mike Earnest, CO. Haiti Project’s Medical Director

What an extraordinary week in Haiti! I was traveling with Teresa, who leads our Vocational (Job Training) Program, and two women who were an exploratory team from the Dept. of International Women’s Studies at Old Dominion University. They conducted individual interviews with 25 women at the wells near St. Paul’s, our school in Petit Trou, and met with 22 of the village volunteer health workers we have recruited in the past years. They also discovered and met with 26 women of a self-organized Women’s Cooperative group; conversed with present and past mayors and community leaders, met with a voodoo priest, observed at the school, interviewed Fr. Abiade and other St. Paul leaders, and sat in on some of my meetings on medical issues.

Colorado Haiti Project is leading an extraordinary, ground-breaking collaboration to prevent disease and heal the sick in the commune (county) of Petit Trou de Nippes. We’ve worked here almost 25 years, and we helped many children and families. Now it’s time to make a quantum leap. Colorado Haiti Project has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with key community players to bring stable,ongoing, quality health care to the people here. Signatories to the agreement are the Haitian Ministry of Health, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti through St. Paul’s Parish, ourselves, and the government and community leaders of Petit Trou. My job here this week was to solidify the communication and progress in implementing the MOU, and to advance health care in the school.

I met with two doctors from Ministry of Health, Lead Nurse Anne, the commune’s epidemiologist, the pharmacist, the custodian-handyman in the Petit Trou clinic, and the nurse-supervisor of our health agents. St. Paul’s pastor Fr. Abiade sponsored many dinners and gatherings to keep things moving and hammer out details. We can announce some great news; we expect to have two doctors in the clinic this year! We also are putting in place sound accounting and accountability mechanisms to assure the money budgeted and provided goes to the right programs and people. We also met with the community council that will be the voice of the people in the region as to what they want and need, to make some noise if they’re not getting it, and to celebrate when they are! The young, assertive and community-spirited man who asked great questions turns out to have been the current mayor! He left the gathering very positive and committed to helping in any way he could. Should be a strong, long-term leader.

Last, I also met with health team at the school. Myrtil is a strong, experienced nurse, but the full extent of the health plan for the school, SHARE (School Health and Reproductive Education), is not yet activated–more health and hygiene education is needed, and Fr. Abiade committed to making it work. We helped Myrtil develop a list of supplies she will need to help SHARE work well in the school.

What a week! Lots done, lots planned, lots of support needed. Colorado Haiti Project is doing great work; expanding quality health care here faces some challenges, but the structures and people are now in place to make it happen. All we need to do is raise the dollars. Thanks to all our friends for making health and healing happen!

Wynn Walent