Haiti

January 12, 2011 marks the one year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I have the good fortune of visiting MSH’s USAID-funded SDSH (Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti) project team in Port-au-Prince this week, and I traveled out into the city to see the devastation the earthquake caused.

Rubble and dust in Haiti a year after the earthquake.

It has been a catastrophic year for Haitians. The Haitians themselves say this, a people who are used to dealing with poverty, combined with yearly hurricanes, and near constant political instability. However, one thing has been made clear to me in the past few days that I have been on this island: Life Goes On.

Danielle Brown is the Program Coordinator of the Leadership, Management and Sustainability (LMS) project in Haiti. She worked with our teams in Haiti from October 24 – November 14.

River Crossers at Rivií¨re des Barres

 

With Hurricane Tomas approaching and the cholera outbreak not yet contained, the Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti (SDSH) project, led by MSH and funded by USAID, is working to simultaneously provide health facilities with necessary supplies for the cholera response and also work with local and international partners to prepare for the storm.

Over 100 more deaths from cholera have been reported in the past week, raising the total to 442 deaths and 6,742 hospitalizations. Potential flooding caused by Tomas could exacerbate the outbreak. In the coming weeks, SDSH will train 300 auxiliary nurses, 2,500 traditional birth attendants, and 2,000 community health workers across 147 sites in community-based prevention of cholera.

International and local agencies are working together to secure water, sanitation, and hygiene commodities and shelter, and create communication centers to prepare for the hurricane response.

The SCMS team in Port-au-Prince unload medicines from the SCMS delivery last week.

In late October 2010, the USAID Supply Chain Management System project (SCMS) distributed close to 50,000 lbs of essential products including oral rehydration salts, antibiotics, lab supplies, water treatment and ringer lactate to support Haiti's response to the cholera epidemic. The commodities came from existing stock in the SCMS warehouse as well as products available on the local market. SCMS also provided international procurements of 60,000 IV solution units and 20,000 IV sets.

Antoine Fadoul is the Supply Chain Management System Country Director in Haiti.

Reeling from Shock

Estama Murat, Director of the Drouin Methodist School, cautiously hopes to reopen: “This obviously will not come easy," he says, "because we have many children still sick and other pupils have fled the village.”

Drouin is in Grande Saline, where the cholera virus was first discovered in the Artibonite department last week. The population of 17,000 is still in shock. Many of them left for the chief town of Gonaives, Mr. Murat explains, or toward Saint-Marc in the Lower Artibonite region.

The Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti (SDSH), led by MSH, funded by USAID, has been supporting the Drouin health center for the past three years, to deliver a package of primary health services in maternal and child health and family planning. Through the USAID-funded project, MSH also supports a network of community health workers and traditional birth attendants for community outreach activities, ensuring that the services reach the people in need.

A volunteer nun tending to a chld at the Drouin health centerOn Tuesday and Wednesday, Dr. Serge Conille, the HIV/AIDS technical Advisor of the USAID-funded SDSH project led by Management Sciences for Health, and designated lead of the project's emergency cholera task force, and I visited project-supported health facilities in the epicenter of the epidemic in the lower Artibonite Department (Province).

We drove into the cholera zone over a dirt track through a flat plain of fields, green, but neglected. The road ran parallel to what appeared to be a wide canal, the dikes on either side uneven and crumbling. Later, I found out that this was the Artibonite river, source of the epidemic. It was constrained and channeled some 25 years ago as part of a “whole valley development plan” which included promotion of rice cultivation. The rice is largely gone and the dikes are frequently overrun by the river which floods the surrounding countryside isolating some villages, sometimes for long periods of time.

Fragile states such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Liberia, and Southern Sudan have among the worst health statistics – especially for women and children.  For political, economic, security and other reasons they can be extremely challenging work environments. Despite this, I have been deeply inspired to see what local health leaders have achieved when they have created strong partnerships among government, donors,  non-governmental organizations and where possible the private sector.  The charismatic former minister of health from Afghanistan, the  medical director of an urban clinic in northern Haiti, and the director of Torit hospital in Southern Sudan stand out as examples of local leadership in action under circumstances that would immobilize many of us.

In fragile states, constraints on governments often prevent them from simultaneously building their stewardship role and immediately expanding service delivery. Supporting the Ministry of Health to establish a basic package of health services, train local organizations to implement those services, and provide incentives (such as through performance-based financing) is critical to success. Additionally, the goal should be to move from many plans and actors across districts to one health plan with committed partners. 

The Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti (SDSH) project Chief of Party, Agma Prins, and Dr. Serge Conille are in the Artibonite department to support the MSH response to the cholera outbreak. They continue to coordinate with the Ministry of Health and other international and local partners. MSH is working with Pure Water for the World to educate communities about hygiene and provide access to clean water through bio-sand filters.

Additionally, MSH Sr. Technical Advisor, Dr. Georges Dubuche, is working with Direct Relief International to coordinate an air freight shipment of supplies including IV fluids. IV catheters, oral rehydration salt tablets, Pedialyte solution, tetracycline or doxycycline, exam gloves, soap, and IV equipment stands.

The MSH/SDSH project is funded by the USAID.

The Management Sciences for Health Haiti staff continues to work tirelessly alongside local partners to mitigate the cholera outbreak. A sample of today’s work is outlined below.

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