In 2000, a group of Portland, Maine health care professionals, business people, and other interested parties met to discuss their shared desire to work on building a sustainable health system in a community somewhere in the developing world. Many in the group previously had been involved with international programs and wanted to contribute their energy and resources to address the issue of health inequity.
In 2001, these founding board members established the Greater Portland International Health Initiative as a non-profit organization. Their vision was to partner with an existing public health system in an underserved community whose citizens had limited access to health care.
The founding board members considered communities in countries around the world. In 2001, a Haitian doctor doing his residency at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine told them about Cap-Haitian, Haiti. Following a May 2001 site visit to Cap-Haitien, in November 2001, they formally established a partnership with Justinian University Hospital ( JUH) in Cap-Haitien, the second largest teaching hospital in Haiti. In 2002, to more acurately reflect our mission, the Board of Directors changed the name from Greater Portland International Health Initiative to Konbit Sante Cap-Haitian Health Partnership.
Beginning in 2002 and annually thereafter, volunteers traveled to Cap-Haitien to work with their Haitian colleagues on strengthening the health system and improving people’s access to the health care. Representative on-site work performed by volunteers and their Haitian colleagues includes:
- review of Justinian University Hospital (JUH) department services and operations;
- assessment of public health issues;
- evaluation of JUH water supply and options for new wells and offsite sources to increase water supply, water quality testing, water main replacement to reduce bacteriological contamination;
- installation of JUH internet service and computers;
- installation of donated equipment, e.g. x-ray machines in JUH Radiology Department; and
- improvements to infrastructure e.g. grounding JUH electrical system grid, installing new lights in the JUH operating room and ventilation in the Radiology dark room.
Beginning in 2003, Konbit Sante provided funds to:
1. Support hiring and training of staff at its partner facilities.
- Director of Resident Education in Internal Medicine at JUH (2003).
- In-country Program Manager (2006)
- Supply chain coordinator (2009)
- Nurse supervisor of agent de santes (community health workers) at Fort Saint Michel Health Center (2009)
2. Support Haitian clinicians and administrators travel to Portland, Maine for training and to participate in joint planning activities.
- Chief of Maternity at JUH participated in training in Portland, Maine (2005)
- JUH administrator trained in hospital management issues at Maine hospital (2008)
- JUH Chiefs of Anesthesia and Surgery trained at Maine hospital (2009)
3. Sponsor attendance of JUH physicians at professional clinical update conferences in the United States.
- JUH pediatrician participation in weeklong pediatric primary care review conference in Cincinnati (2009)
4. initiate shipping 40 foot shipping containers of donated medical equipment and supplies ship containers to Cap-Haitien. The contents of each container are varied but the average value is $150,000 per container. By 2015, we have shipped 16 shipping containers and dozens of smaller shipments, including numerous shipments of emergency aid in response to the earthquake and cholera epidemic.
- Established Sister City relationship between Portland, Maine and Cap-Haitien, Haiti
- Established relationship with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) & the Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP)
- Received first USAID grant via Management Sciences for Health (MSH)
- Established formal partner relationship with Fort Saint Michel Health Center (FSM)
- Built space for pediatric outpatient clinic at JUH
- Established Portland, Maine office and hired Executive Director
- Established relationship with JUH School of Nursing
- Re-established feeding and nutrition program in JUH Department of Pediatrics
- Funded training for five agents de santé (community health workers); funded two agents de sante positions at Fort St Michel Health Center, the first two to serve the area
- With support from the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation, conducted women’s health study that led to formation of a Women’s Health Committee in Cap-Haitien
- Established permanent Haiti office at JUH
- Conducted evaluation of Cap-Haitian on-site program activities headed by Konbit Sante Board President with involvement of global public health professionals from Harvard University, Boston University and Johns Hopkins University
- Received Pan American Health Foundation Grant to develop an infection control process at JUH
- Established a relationship with Direct Relief International to donate essential medicines to JUH
- Established first inventory supply system at the JUH, including salary support for a depot manager and the funds to equip a central depot
- With funding from the Dorthea Haus Ross Foundation, added addition to the Department of Pediatrics to serve as the neonatal unit
- Became a legally recognized organization in Haiti
- Expanded Fort Saint Michel Health Center to provide obstetrical care
- Completed in-depth situational assessments of internal medicine, community health, pediatrics, nursing, and blood transfusion system
- Secured scholarship to HINARI, a WHO database which enables users to have instant on-line access to thousands of professional research journals; provided training to JUH staff on how to use it HINARI
- Partnered with Direct Relief International to pre-position hurricane relief supplies and procure additional critical materials.
2010 to 2014 - The Earthquake and Subsequent Cholera Outbreak
On January 12, a 7.0 earthquake devastated southern Haiti. After the earthquake, Konbit Sante made several strategic decisions to increase our impact. First, we broadened our geographic focus to include the Greater Cap-Haitien area. In addition, we expanded our support to include health partners from the Haitian private sector. For example, we strengthened our relationship and collaboration with both the Haitian Baptist Convention Hospital in the neighboring area of Quartier Morin, and with Unite de Lutte pour la Sante serving the communal section of Cap-Haitian called Bande de Nord. Finally, we expanded our relationships in other sectors that build health promoting infrastructure. In this regard, we partnered with SOIL, an organization promoting ecological sanitation whereby human waste is converted into valuable compost thus providing sanitation to people who would otherwise not have access to a toilet.
Download our 2014 Annual Report to read the list of our accomplishments 5 years after the earthquake.
Konbit Sante Today
Konbit Sante continues its established relationship with the Haitian Ministry of Health, partners with four health facilities in Greater Cap-Haitien and supports initiatives in women and children’s health, infrastructure improvements, supply chain, emergency response, and quality improvement, training and management.