An Update On COVID-19
Despite a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in Haiti this week, there have been some bright spots too, and we are happy to share some good news.
The residents mentioned in the previous update have started with Project Medishare and are already working alongside staff. Also, after a temporary stop in April to determine new procedures to protect the staff and abide by government restrictions, we have restarted our vaccination program! Our health agents have been reviewing these new procedures with community members, and the new protocols have been overwhelmingly well-respected. However, we have found that many cannot adhere to the rule of mask-wearing at all vaccination sites as they do not have masks. After discussions with our community health program leaders, we have decided to give each parent who comes with their child for vaccinations a reusable mask, helping to protect our community health agents as well as our community members.
Haiti has begun to see a dramatic rise in confirmed cases. But, there is so much we will not know as the stigma around COVID-19 continues, causing fewer to come forward and seek help. All staff continues to follow strict protocols with regard to personal protection, and, as of Monday, in accordance with a government mandate, all persons in public places are required to wear masks, which includes those who are coming to our clinics.
This past week we began the distribution of nutrition support kits to families in our malnutrition program along with mothers who give birth in our maternity centers and malnourished pregnant women; sadly, we regularly see and treat malnourished pregnant women at our clinics. So far we have distributed 52 kits, each of which included a handwashing bucket with soap, basic food staples such as rice, beans, and oil, and reusable masks to help keep these vulnerable families healthy during this difficult time. As prices on food items have continued to increase in recent weeks, all recipients greatly appreciated these kits.
Next week our new social service residents will begin their year with Project Medishare. In this class, we will have three doctors and one nurse who will work alongside our staff at both the clinics and maternity centers. Additionally, later this month, we will again be hosting a pediatric fellow, allowing us to have a full-time pediatrician at each of our clinics – a truly incredible concept for rural clinics.
We’d like to send a big thank you to board member Pierre Garcon for donating another 1,000 cloth masks and 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for us to share with our staff and throughout our communities. Other board members have contributed both big and small to Project Medishare. Such a big heart during these tough times! Your support during these difficult times gives us strength.
There is a saying in Haitian Creole, “If the source is not healthy, the community will not be healthy.” For Project Medishare, the “source” of health is our staff. Each person in our communities relies upon the Project Medishare team to keep our clinics and programs running well so that they can receive the life-saving services that they need.
With the importance of our team’s health and well-being always at the forefront of our minds, especially during these difficult times, last week, we distributed COVID-19 kits to all staff members. Everyone received a bucket to create a handwashing station in their home (most do not have running water), soap for handwashing, two reusable masks for themselves and two reusable masks for family members, a refillable gallon of chlorine (produced in our Marmont facility), and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Each team member plays an indispensable role in the life-saving work we do, from the cleaners, drivers, and cooks, to the doctors, nurses, and midwives. We all depend on each other just as our communities depend on us.
Everyone was grateful to those who made it possible for them to receive these items and expressed the tremendous difference that these simple things would have in keeping them and their families healthy during this crisis.
We were also able to begin distributing food kits to families in our malnutrition program in Lahoye, and new moms at our Marmont maternity center. Everyone was very grateful to receive food staples such as rice, beans and oil.
This continues to be a difficult time for all of us but words cannot express our gratitude for so many of you that have stepped forward to make donations over the past few weeks. This helps allow us to focus on what is needed most in our communities and be flexible during this unprecedented time. Hospital Bernard Mevs remains calm but continues to prepare for an influx of patients. Providing accurate information on COVID-19 still remains essential in this battle. The official, reported numbers of confirmed cases in PAP are still relatively low, but we expect to see more cases in the coming weeks.
As we know, the economic situation in Haiti plays a significant role in day to day life. In Haiti, the cost of food has increased exponentially, making feeding families even more difficult. For example, the same bunch of plantains (a common food in Haiti) have gone from ~$8.70 in January to ~$18.35 in March. This does not even address the decrease in the value of the Haitian Gourde in the past several months.And so, as we watch people still go to the market to buy or sell what they can, or as people continue to travel in tap taps, we would all do well to remember that social distancing is not always possible in the same ways in different countries around the world.
We are having constant conversations on how to be physically distant but socially engaged in our communities. Our team continues to be steadfast, optimistic and hard-working to support our communities, knowing they rely on us. This fight is far from over and we will continue to be there for our communities.
We wanted to share with you one of the initiatives we currently have in place during the COVID-19 pandemic: chlorine production.
Each month, our production facility is able to churn out hundreds of gallons of medical grade bleach, which is then distributed to our community members. This bleach is able to treat water, making it suitable for cooking, washing, cleaning, and disinfecting knives, tools and contaminated surfaces. We have also purchased and will be distributing buckets in our communities to help with safe hand washing. While chlorine production and distribution is something we do year-round, the current pandemic has caused us to increase our efforts, as cleaning and disinfecting are one of the best ways to combat the coronavirus.
With the 700 gallons of bleach that Project Medishare produced in March, we are able to treat millions of gallons of water.We’re also very excited to share the news that our board member, Pierre Garcon, graciously donated a very large order of hand sanitizer and locally made face masks. Thank you, Pierre! Your constant dedication to the people of Haiti always leaves us very inspired.Last, but certainly not least, we give sincere thanks to all of the generous individuals that have made gifts in recent weeks. While the fight against coronavirus is nowhere near done, its your support and faith in us that keep us motivated to keep doing our work.
COVID-19 has arrived to Haiti.
- Schools in Haiti have shut down, meaning we are not running our school lunch or school health exam programs.
- All community health activities has been suspended as people are no longer permitted to gather in groups. This was one of the most difficult choices we have had to make recently, but this measure was necessary as it’s not possible to implement the required protocols at the various sites. This includes: all mobile clinics, all rally posts, all Orphan and Vulnerable Children meetings
- All staff who are not essential and can work from home have been asked to do so from now on.
- Our volunteer program is postponed for the time being. All upcoming volunteer trips have been cancelled.