I hope this letter finds you safe and well during these times, and I want to give a word of gratitude to you for joining with us to continue to support our healthcare partners in Haiti as they grapple with addressing the COVID-19 pandemic as it increasingly sweeps through the population. While as of this writing, there are about 3,800 test-confirmed cases and 58 deaths officially attributed to COVID-19, there is every reason to believe that the disease has a much greater grip on the nation.
Very limited testing is available (all of it located in Port-au-Prince), and the fear, misinformation, and stigma surrounding the disease has resulted in a very small percentage of people being tested and counted. Our team tells us that the people are now often talking about “the fever” that is spreading through the population, but many people do not want to be tested or seek treatment at hospitals or health centers, which are often viewed as the epicenters of the infection. This is also keeping people away who need other kinds of critical health care, such as skilled delivery and newborn care.
One of the most important strategies that we are supporting is the sharing of information with communities and giving them the tools to keep themselves safe and decrease the transmission. Since the first cases were identified in Haiti, we have been sharing information with the communities of Greater Cap-Haitien utilizing traveling sound trucks, airing hourly health messaging on two radio stations, and supporting 20 community health workers to conduct outreach with printed brochures and megaphones throughout the neighborhoods that they serve.
To help people do the recommendations, we have purchased and distributed over 6,000 masks from local seamstresses, provided more than 600 hand-washing stations made from buckets with spigots, and supplied soap and chlorine for disinfection. We are contracting for more of all these items for the month of June.
We also want to make sure that the health facilities delegated by the Ministry of Health as treatment centers for patients are prepared. Since our last COVID update, we delivered much needed PPE (personal protective equipment) to several sites, and will be consigning more for distribution soon. We have purchased an additional 10 large oxygen cylinders for the Justinien Hospital and paid for the preparation of the site where they will receive an oxygen generator from the government of Haiti. We have provided a tent for a safe triage area at the Fort St. Michel Health Center, and will begin construction of a permanent reception and triage area at the ULS clinic this week.
We are collaborating with Haiti Medical Education Project to develop training and provide ongoing case reviews and consultation regarding COVID patients for the frontline workers and the COVID treatment centers in the North Department. We have not yet been successful in getting grant funding for that initiative, but we are committed to start within two weeks with existing resources.
As always, we can’t do anything alone, and are very grateful for the support from Rayjon, the Connecticut Children’s Hospital, Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni, the Fort Lauderdale Sister City committee, Dr. Kendra Belfi, and many others who are already responding to our virtual fundraiser, We Walk with Haiti, to help sustain this work (konbitsante.org/we-walk-with-haiti). There is always room in this konbit for more!