If this were a blog about HIV or Malaria, I could write about the advances that we have seen in the past year. Alas, this is just a blog about tuberculosis - a disease as old as humanity that we have not yet been able to tame. One third of the world's population is infected with tuberculosis. Clearly, much more remains to be done for Haiti and for the world.
The Jolivert Safe Water System developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Pan American Health Organization is a successful example of a community-based clean water program. CDC partnered with Missions of Love Clinic in Jolivert and Deep Springs International to treat water using a hypochlorite solution in a safe container at home. The program employs local Haitians to produce and distribute the solution, while providing community education on healthy water and sanitation practices.
Haitian leaders tend to get bogged down in ever-unstable Port au Prince. It is a matter of political survival. However, most of Haiti is rural and certainly most of what is good about Haiti is to be found outside of its largest city. Recently President Preval made a public tour of the Central Plateau. We were happy to see that public health was a recurring theme of his trip. Regardless of one's political beliefs, we can all agree increased attention to public health is essential. When a person has health, a person has hope. Where there is hope, there is also the possibility of development and a better future.
I recently came across a document I wrote years ago as part of a training for ex-pat health workers at the Hopital Justinien in Cap Haitian. It concerns how to provide health services to Haitians. I wrote it for two reasons. First, cultural misunderstandings in a medical context can have serious consequences. Second, I was bothered when I would sometimes hear expat health care providers complain about how hard it was to work with Haitians - as if there were something wrong with them. Quite the contrary. To be an effective provider, one has to know his/her own culture as well as that of the patient.
There are more Haitian doctors in Florida than in Haiti. When you speak to them, their frustration is palpable. Many want an opportunity to give back to their country - but at the same time, they want the resources and tools they need to make a difference for their patients.
I would argue that the measurement of progress in a country is not the quantity of money a person has, not the ammount of technology possessed, but rather the ability of that country to meet the needs of its children. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has just released a report which suggests we have a long way to go, for Haiti and the world.
We frequently write about the innovative work that Project Medishare and its partners began in Thomonde and have expanded into ineighboring provinces. Recently, they remodelled their website and added a very nice blog and its definitely worth a look if you are interested in Haiti's Central Plateau and public health.
HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and TB are the unholy Trinity of illness in the developing world. But there are a number of less widely known diseases, which while not fatal, cause a great deal of sickness, suffering, and disability. One of them is Lymphatic Filariasis, also known as Elephantiasis. But what is it? LF is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes that bite infected humans and pick up microfilariae – thread like parasitic worms. Below is a picture.
Infant mortality is high in Haiti, needlessly so. According to the CIA Factbook, Haiti has the 38th highest infant mortality rate of 221 countries. Number 37 is the DRC! Clearly, more needs to be done to protect the health of children...the most vulnerable members of a vulnerable country.
Members of the Haiti Innovation Community are by now no doubt familiar with the organization Partners in Health and the pionerring work their team has done in Haiti bringing community based health care to the lowest possible resource settings, and in particular, developing novel new approaches to treating both HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.