By Dangé (Haiti Operations Director) and Joel (Clinic and Operations Coordinator)
The Covid-19 Pandemic has exploded globally and is having a powerful impact on the country of Haiti, with almost 7297 cases and 157 deaths according to John Hopkins University. This is exacerbating an already difficult situation of civil unrest, unemployment, lack of quality healthcare and severe poverty. The population confronts the pandemic in an environment of confusion, misinformation, poverty and inadequate personal protective equipment and resources.
Since the virus arrived in Haiti in March, the government has imposed restrictions on public gatherings, declared a state of emergency, closures of the border, and curfews. This has led to a decrease in remittances, tourism, trade and therefore, a drastic slow down of the economy, where a large proportion of Haitians rely on daily wages and are no longer receiving them.
The confirmed number of cases is dubious at best, as testing is severely delayed by a lack of facilities and resources, leading experts to believe the reality of this outbreak is much worse. Additionally, some people who are sick have not been going to the hospital to seek care out of fear of contracting the virus and lack of resources to pay for treatment.
The majority of aid funding Haiti has received has been focused on preventing the spread of the virus hand-washing facilities, and community awareness-raising activities of how the virus spreads. According to the United Nations, some 35% of Haitians lack basic drinking water services and two-thirds have limited or no sanitation services, making it extremely difficult for people to regularly wash their hands. If COVID-19 infects through community transmission in even more than a handful of densely populated residential areas where social distancing is nigh impossible, the less than 70 ventilators and 124 ICU beds will be overwhelmed. It will greatly reduce the chances of effectively rooting the virus out. An inundation of patients is something the hospitals cannot afford. It would push other severely ill patients out of the hospitals with the healthcare system in no position to care for everyone.
The situation in Arcahaie
Earlier this summer, Arcahaie was considered a hotspot for COVID. Though many people in the region were sick, the government called it a “fever epidemic” and did not provide COVID testing or treatment. This left the people of Arcahaie to deal with this crisis on their own; a very frightening time.
People are struggling to buy food and get enough nourishment as the currency’s values drops and inflation increases. In May, The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned the spread of COVID-19 in Haiti could result in a wide-spread famine. Almost 4 million Haitians are already facing hunger.
It has always been the goal of CHI Haiti to transition to Haitian-led clinics and operations. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this process due to the travel restrictions preventing any trips of volunteers from the US. Our Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Haitian staff in Arcahaie have risen to the challenge of responding to this emergency and have consistently been supporting the health needs of the community in whatever way they can.
1. PPE shipment
In March, CHI sent a shipment of PPE (personal protective equipment) we had in storage to Haiti. The PPE was sent to ensure the safety of our CHWs and to distribute to the community. Danger also engaged local seamstresses and students to make masks to distribute to the community and paid them a fair commission.
2. Haitian-Led Home Visit Clinic (#CHI2U)
In June, CHI sent a shipment of medication and supplies to Haiti. These will be distributed, along with dry foods, during our home visit clinic the week of August 3. While we did not think it is wise to gather large groups of people for a full clinic, we want to continue to provide care for our patients who may otherwise not have access to a medication refill. Thus, we launched our first-ever home visit clinic! Our CHWs and our Haitian doctors and staff will conduct home visits to check in with patients, deliver medicine and food, while following distancing and mask protocols to combat the spread of COVID-19.
What the future holds
As we continue to monitor the COVID situation in Haiti, we are hopeful that CHI will be able to implement surgical and medical clinics in the near future. We look forward to 2021 and hope that this brings a new chapter of our work in Arcahaie. We plan to bring US teams for the foreseeable future as we know we offer a valuable service of medical and surgical assistance to our partner communities in Haiti. At the same time, we will continue to push toward creating sustainable jobs in Haiti for Haitians and building capacity in Arcahaie for a time when we can confidently hand over full operations and know that our work is done.