Sustaining our Medical Outreach
While most of us are trying to adapt to a world with minimal personal contact, our mission in Haiti continues. The Haiti Outreach Committee conducted an online meeting in April that helped keep us up to date on activities one thousand miles away.
Unlike in the U.S., Haiti’s threadbare medical infrastructure means that the country will be at the mercy of the virus if it takes hold in the slums of Port au Prince. Fortunately, during the months of March and most of April the number of Covid-19 cases in Haiti was relatively small, due in part to the absence of foreign tourism and the thousands of foreigners who otherwise would have been in Haiti working on projects similar to ours. However, as thousands of Haitian workers were laid off in other countries, particularly in the nearby Dominican Republic, their return to Haiti has raised the likelihood that a country that has endured an earthquake, hurricanes and a cholera outbreak in the last decade will confront yet another crisis.
As these events unfold, our little clinic in the village of Bouly continues to see patients three days a week. While the village’s remoteness has thus far insulated residents from the virus, the clinic’s report for February and March provides a snapshot of the region’s medical needs. Dr. Olgenn Octave and nurse Jean Baptiste Wilmott saw a total of 310 patients in a region that prior to the clinic’s opening in 2014 had no primary health care apart from the annual medical missions from Knoxville.
Some of the report’s information gave reason for hope. In the wake of a horrendous outbreak of cholera in 2010 that infected some 650,000 Haitians, the Bouly clinic reported no cases of cholera. Likewise, no cases of malaria were reported in a region where the disease can ravage communities, particularly in the summer months.
Other data from the report offered a glimpse of the region’s medical needs. Nearly one in four patients was under the age of four. In two months, the clinic staff saw 35 pregnant women. The combination of these two data points underscores one of the clinic’s primary goals--to reduce the extraordinary high levels of infant mortality in the Bouly region.
Some ailments treated by the clinic would be expected, while others might be a surprise to those who have not been to Haiti. About 135 patents were treated for the ordinary flu and another 30, most likely babies, were treated for colic. In a country with primitive standards of hygiene and clean water, 38 patients were treated for acute diarrhea and 52 for infections by parasites.
Meanwhile, we and our partners at St. Kateri parish in Tabb, Virginia, are watching and hoping that Haiti might somehow avoid a medical catastrophe. We are in regular communication with Father Lamarre at St. Michel’s parish in Boucan Carre who is our eyes and ears while we are waiting on the chance to return to our Haiti mission. We will keep you up date as we learn more.