Haiti ranks near the bottom of almost every measure of healthcare. One of seven children die before their 5th birthday, maternal mortality rates are 10 time higher than in the US, and average life expectancy is less than 55 years (compared to nearly 80 years for many European countries). Many rural Haitian have no regular access to even primary health care. Health conditions that are easily treated in the US result in death in Haiti. The primary killers of young children are bacterial pneumonia or diarrhea, both easily treatable with antibiotics that are cheap and widely available in many countries, but not in Haiti. In Haiti, even minor maladies can be deadly.
Zanmi Sasye has been working with the Sassier community to promote improved health care, nutrition, and sanitation in the region. Our efforts include:
- funding the complete operations of two medical clinics in the Sassier area; each clinic is staffed by a nurse and a pharmacist assistant;
- construction of a new clinic building in the village of Voldrogue, completed in 2006, which serves several thousand people in that part of the Sassier area;
- organizing, financing and managing periodic visits by teams of American and Haitian doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists to provide expanded primary care to Sassier area residents;
- provision of hot lunches to more than 800 school children each school day; and
- promotion of vaccination campaigns in collaboration with the Haitian government.
Two of Zanmi Sasye’s directors, Dr Jean Alexandre and Dr Eve Marie Alexandre, along with our Medical Director, Dr Eddy Leveque, have developed a preliminary plan for expanding the availability of primary healthcare in the Sassier area. The plan includes the construction and operation of a larger clinic in Sassier, regional clinic, staffed by a full-time physician, and visited regularly by pediatricians, ophthalmologists, dentists, and other specialists.
Moving forward, we plan to expand our collaboration with a volunteer group of medical professionals from Western Michigan who have chosen to focus their Haiti efforts in Sassier. These medical professionals, many affiliated with Holland Hospital, plan to conduct several week-long medical clinics in Sassier and Voldrogue in 2011. In addition, we will work with the local community to implement new efforts to prevent and eradicate disease through improved public health, sanitation, and nutrition measures, with special focus on clean water, improved sanitation, malaria prevention, and health education. In particular, we intend to focus our health education efforts on the students in our school, since they will have significant influence on their families’ daily activities.