There is good news in Haiti. Did you know, for example, that between 1990 and 2010 the rate by which mothers die in childbirth in Haiti declined by nearly one-half?
People often ask me, “How are things in Haiti?” Recently, someone asked me that very question, immediately followed by the remark “I would be afraid to go there after all I have heard about it; the poverty, the violence, the corruption--.” The interaction brought home to me the disconnect between what I know about the country--its beauty, its complexities, the great strides made in recent years--and the dominant narrative that continues to exist about Haiti here at home.
The common perceptions hardly need repeating: “The poorest country in our hemisphere;” or “Nothing ever gets better there.” While the first statement is true, both are tired, one-dimensional, and fail to recognize important progress being made. How many people know that infant mortality has decreased by 25%, and under-five mortality has decreased by 22% in the past 15 years? Childhood vaccination rates are up and severe malnutrition down. A recent UN study on global homicide rates shows that the murder rate in Haiti is dropping; lower now than in many popular Caribbean vacation destinations.
That there is still a long way to go to alleviate preventable sickness and death speaks to the remaining challenges, but these things are moving in the right direction in spite of the many disasters and obstacles that Haiti has endured. As daunting and challenging as the very real problems are in Haiti, the good news is that they are not intractable or beyond hope.
We at Konbit Sante continue to feel honored to be a small part of this forward movement in Haiti. I was excited this year that the hospital administration of the second largest public hospital in Haiti, Justinian University Hospital (JUH), demonstrated their commitment to improved management in many concrete ways. Perhaps one of the most telling was asking us to take a comprehensive look at their financial systems and make recommendations on how they could be more accountable and transparent. Of course, we were very pleased to do take on the task, and look forward to supporting their continued management improvements in any way we can.
I find hope in the community work being done by the new Haitian health organization ULS, which established a clinic in an underserved area of Cap Haitien called Bande de Nord. We were very pleased to help them grow in their capacity and look forward to building the relationship further.
This year we restructured our Haitian administrative leadership and now have a program manager dedicated exclusively to community initiatives. Her reach and connection in the community has been amazing. I find hope in the way that the pediatric service at JUH has embraced the collection of data on patient outcomes to guide interventions aimed at lowering newborn deaths in the service. I am thrilled to help facilitate the work of partner organizations like SOIL, who are introducing household sanitation in some of the poorest area of Cap Haitien in this age of cholera, and our continued work with Haiti Hospital Appeal, utilizing mobile clinics to reach women and children often marginalized from the formal health system. I find hope in the construction of new facilities at the Justinian Hospital and improvements to the electrical systems throughout the hospital as the result of the assessment and advocacy work that we have done.
A couple of years ago, one of our Haitian staff told me that he was discouraged by the slow rate of change and wasn’t sure that real change was possible. I told him that I didn’t always know what to believe about the bigger picture, but I did know that I believed in him and what he was doing. I continue to believe in the growing number of people who remain committed to manifesting the change they want to see.
We are truly privileged to support such agents for positive change whose work is marked by dogged persistence against the odds, dedication to service, and humility and compassion in the pursuit of helping others. I hope that this report gives you a glimpse of the work that your support has made possible over the past year and why the many people who have seen firsthand what is going on tell a Haitian story counter to--or perhaps more complete than--the one most often repeated; a story of steadfastness, of friendship, of daily actions that work to meet the needs of all those in Haiti who surely deserve health and well-being in their lives.
Thank you for being a part of the community of people who are making this narrative of resilience and hope a reality.
What do birthing kits destined for Haiti and Christmas trees have in common? Each is the focus of a service project for the Youth Group at St. George's Church.
On the second Sunday of every month, the Youth Group leads the congregation in an outreach effort. The first project began when the group learned of the desperate needs in Haiti and decided to assemble and donate birthing kits to the Konbit Sante Cap-Haitian Health Partnership. Partnering with the Haitian Ministry of Health through mobile clinics, Konbit Sante distributes 300 kits monthly to Haitian families in need. Canvas bags are filled with items essential to home delivery and the first months of a baby's life
In October the youth, joined by others in the congregation, decorated canvas bags that will hold the contents of the birthing kits. York Hospital has donated latex gloves and caps for newborns for the kits. Other items needed for each kit are: a small bar of soap, a piece of clean plastic sheeting (4 feet wide by 5 feet long), a piece of clean string 24 inches long, a packet of alcohol wipes, a packet (or travel container) of hand sanitizer like Purelle, a small receiving blanket (about 36 inches square), non-gender-specific infant clothing or a small infant-safe stuffed toy.
The Youth Group also invites the community to participate by donating needed items, which can be left at St. George's Church. Monetary donations that will be used to purchase items from the list are also welcome. Checks can be made out to St. George's Church with "birthing kits" in the memo line and mailed to St. George's Church, P.O. Box 364, York Harbor, ME 03911.
A second service project involves the Youth Group's participation in the eighth annual Festival of Fostering Trees at Foster's Clambake to benefit children in the Maine foster care system.
For information, please contact St. George's Church at (207)363-7376, ext.101.
Please join us for, and tell your friends about, our annual Holiday Sale of handmade Haitian metal art to be held at the St Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress Street, Munjoy Hill, Portland the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 30th.
We consider these a four-for-the price-of-one value;
1. These pieces were purchased directly from the artists themselves, and so provide them with a livelihood.
2. You (or whoever is your gift recipient) will own a beautifully crafted and interesting piece of art.
3. The profits go to support Konbit Sante’s ongoing work to strengthen the health system in Haiti, and.....
4. It is a great ecological way to reuse or re-purpose the oil drums from which these are made!
We hope to see you there, with friends in tow!