With its emphasis on human rights, social justice and empowerment, Partners in Health (PIH) is making a difference in Haiti, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Russia, Lesotho and even Boston. PIH has inspired individuals working for non governmental organizations, international organizations and even governments to better serve the poor. PIH Model Online (PIHMO) was recently created as a practical online resource for anyone delivering health services in resource-poor settings. David West, part of the PIHMO team, notes that while the project is just in its early stages, there will be a flood of useful content in the coming year. The website will also provide a forum for discussion on health, human rights and poverty.
Security and food security go hand in hand in countries like Haiti that are dependent on importation for survival. President Rene Preval announced a 15 percent cut in rice prices and a series of measures to uphold national food production namely by providing subsidies, credit and technical assistance to farmers. Rice exports are banned. However, Haitians cannot survive on rice alone. Corn, beans, oil, etc. all remain expensive. The President has yet to appoint a Prime Minister who can assemble a new Cabinet. We hope, whoever he or she is, the new Prime Minister will take food security seriously and communicate often with the public about what is doing to reduce food costs and improve national production. This should have been a priority long ago.
Don't forget - Mother's Day is Sunday, May 11th. Project Medishare has released a special Mother's Day Appeal to complete their innovative program to treat malnourished children with locally grown ingredients. Once established in Thomonde, Project Medishare wants to expand their coverage throughout the entire Central Plateau. You can make a special donation in your mother's name to Project Medishare this year, helping to make sure that Haitian mothers are able to keep their children nourished and healthy.
Friday was World Malaria Day 2008. Global health depends on controlling this global disease. It is the leading cause of death in African children and a major health concern in Haiti. It overwhelms fragile health care systems and hurts economies - the annual economic loss in Africa due to malaria is estimated to be $12 billion (1.3% loss in GDP.) Yet, we know how to prevent it and how to treat it. There has been tremendous progress made in the past year, so much so that the international community increasingly agrees that we should begin working toward eradication - in other words, a world without malaria. It would be a better world indeed.
Malnutrition is a threat to health but it is treatable. The cure is the appropriate kind of food. There is no reason why children should die either from malnutrition or infectious diseases they are vulnerable to because malnourishment has weakened their immune systems. Earlier we wrote about Plumpynut, a Ready to Use Therapeutic Food that has revolutionized the way we treat malnourished children - and saved many of their lives in the process. Current sent us a video about Meds and Foods for Kids, organization in Cap Haitian that decided to make their own version of Plumpynut from local ingredients. They have been very successful and now the World Bank is supporting them to provide "Medika Mamba" nationwide. It is an innovative idea that is now having a nationwide impact.
It is not easy to find a library in Haiti. The Fondation Connaissance & Liberté (FOKAL) wants to change that. FOKAL supports 35 community libraries throughout Haiti. FOKAL also supports arts and culture programming, a debate program, grassroots initiatives, a preschool program and even water projects. FOKAL staff will speak at the Library of Congress in Washington DC on June 10th. If you do not live in the Washington DC area, you can catch the live webcast. In the meantime,take a look at their website to learn more about this organiztion. Education is fundamental to solving Haiti’s economic, environmental, and health related challenges.
Haiti Innovation expressed disappointment and irritation with last week's New York Times article describing a solution to Haiti's hunger. Today, circulating through blogs all over cyber space, human rights lawyer Bill Quigley released a compelling report: "America's Role in Haiti's Hunger Riots". He goes beyond the trite phrases describing Haiti and delves into the truth behind high food costs. So although Haiti "needs to better feed itself", countries such as the US need to allow this to happen. Mr. Quigley raises the question, "Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?".
A colleague of mine worked in Dhaka for several years, a city infinitely more crowded than Port au Prince. Yet, Dhaka is much cleaner. In Port au Prince, plastic bottles and trash clog the waterways creating a flooding hazard and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit diseases. It is a great place to be a goat but a hard place to be a human being. What is the difference between Dhaka and Port au Prince? Bangladesh has recycling plants while Haiti does not.
Thought you might enjoy reading a Boston Globe piece about progress being made by Partners in Health in Rwanda. It really is an inspiring story. Rwanda was torn apart during the Genocide, but is coming together again. Health is clearly playing an important role in the reconciliation process. Working closely with the Clinton Foundation, the Government of Rwanda, and a large team of dedicated communicate health workers, there are making a real difference with the knowledge and experience they gained in their +20 years of experience in Haiti.
Benjamin Skinner wrote an article in Foreign Policy about the modern face of human slavery. According to Skinner, there are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history. He states true abolition will elude us until: (1) we admit the massive scope of the problem; (2) attack it in all its forms; and (3) and empower slaves to help free themselves. Even in Haiti, the only country to have led a successful slave rebellion, slavery thrives. Slavery has many gusies and "restaveks" are just one.