I returned from Haiti two days ago, having spent time with Roger and Angela visiting four orphanages cared for by ESMI and Give Hope Global. We went ahead of a very capable team currently in country. A subset of that team is focusing on the medical issues specifically. They are currently addressing water treatment, sanitation and hygiene, acute illnesses, trauma, and mosquito control. It has taken me several days to process everything I saw while there. I did not appreciate the emotional impact of this trip compared to others in the past for me personally. Truly overwhelming. I wanted to share some of my thoughts particularly around the healthcare issues we are facing. I have been hesitant to write much about the trip because my words are not adequate to communicate all I have seen and feel. Nonetheless, I will try.
ESMI has moved kids from three orphanages into Cambry….. until their homes can be repaired. All of the other orphanages suffered extensive damage to the living quarters, kitchens, and other facilities, making them not usable at this time. Most of the metal roofs were damaged or destroyed during the storm. Many of the kids’ personal belongings were lost. The repairs required at the other sites will be expensive and take some time meaning the additional orphans at Cambry….. will be there for some time.
On my first day there, I was walking around Cambry….. and noted the picture below lying on the ground. It was torn, stained, and wet. Those of you who sponsor orphans or are trip veterans know how important pictures are to these kids. I found this particularly poignant. A simple photo provides hope and comfort to the orphans. My initial emotion was and continues to be primarily anger at why this happened. I know God has a plan but it doesn’t make it any easier. It really puts things into perspective for me here in the US where we have so much. These kids’ material possessions are few and so simple… a picture.
“… because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless [orphans] who had none to assist them” Job 29:12
The inability to house kids in their damaged homes has led to a considerable increase in the occupant density of the living facilities at Cambry……. We currently have almost 450 children living in an area designed for around 150. This creates significant public health risks with regards to diarrheal illnesses such as cholera, malaria, Dengue fever, and a myriad of other infectious diseases. It stresses the facilities as well as the incredible staff caring for these kids.
Our first focus was to address the water quality, both at the site and in the surrounding community due to the increased risk of cholera and other water-born illnesses. Rob Bolo is in charge of water purification measures and the creation of water purification centers to be staffed by our community health workers in the field. We will also have a water treatment facility at the orphanage to provide for the staff and orphans. Treatment will consist of a filtration system followed by chemical treatment of the water before its use. We will couple these efforts with education measures around handwashing and general hygiene. The community health workers supported by folks here in the States have been remarkable and will continue to be critical pieces of the healthcare system in the orphanage and surrounding communities.
The next focus centers on mosquito control. We are spraying for existing mosquitos, as well as treating standing water with chemicals to kill larvae and eggs. This is particularly critical to decrease the risk of malaria and other mosquito-born illnesses. We have had a number of malaria cases among the orphans so far, and this number seems to be growing daily. While we have no Dengue fever yet, it is also a concern. Mosquitos must be aggressively controlled.
Hygiene measures around waste disposal (feces) are also critical given the density of living space and numbers of children on site. We are cleaning the latrines and showers using a Clorox solution and removing all solid waste from around those facilities. A Haitian team on the ground will be trained and paid to clean these facilities weekly with a bleach solution to help maintain hygiene and reduce the risk of disease. We hope to secure donations to upgrade the outhouse facilities going forward. A “state of the art” unit costs between $12-15K.
Our medical team is conducting physical exams on all children at the orphanage during their stay this week. To date, the kids are doing reasonably well although numbers of suspected malaria cases are increasing. Louis and ESMI were heroic in their efforts to secure and deliver food (currently being stored offsite) in the days immediately following the hurricane. We will know more later this week about the overall health of the population once the providers have completed their evaluations. We are trying to coordinate with the Ministry of Health to dispense cholera vaccines at the clinic via the trained community health workers on site.
I cannot say enough about the amazing work Dr. Junior, including our 12 community health workers, has been doing during this catastrophic time following Hurricane Matthew. They truly are providing an amazing service to the kids and the surrounding communities. The US supporters of the community health worker training program should be proud. You are making a HUGE difference in the lives of those we love in Haiti. We need additional money to continue this amazing ministry. The Give Hope Community Health Worker Program provides a trained job to a Haitian, a meaningful service to the community, and allows us to leverage Dr. Junior’s efforts at the clinic. Our program is patterned after that developed by Partners in Health by Dr. Paul Farmer. If this is something that moves your heart, please consider supporting a health worker’s salary for a year ($1320). Any help is appreciated!
I would tell you that there is an incredible amount of work to be done. The team this week is a huge step in the right direction, as are our Haitian partners on the ground. If you have been moved in the past or want to help meet the challenges faced following Matthew, know that you can help by contributing money to the Hurricane Matthew Relief provided by Give Hope Global and ESMI. I can personally guarantee you that this money will be well spent and will alleviate suffering and save lives. Please continue to pray for our Haitian partners and friends, as well as the Give Hope team currently on the ground.
“I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me.”
Will Caldwell MD
Give Hope Global