Konbit Sante Targets Four Health Challenges in Cap Haitian

  • Posted on: 19 December 2007
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

There are more Haitian doctors in Florida than in Haiti.  When you speak to them, their frustration is palpable.  Many want an opportunity to give back to their country - but at the same time, they want the resources and tools they need to make a difference for their patients. 


If they feel they can't make a difference in Haiti, they begin to look at other options - almost all of which, are frankly, better paying.


Konbit Sante is an organization based in Portland, Maine with a very specific focus - to help the Justinian Hospital in Cap Haitian better meet the needs of the patients living in its catchment area.  If you live in the North, have a serious health emergency (and can't afford the next flight to Miami) then you are headed to the Justinian Hospital.  Its catchment area is large but its resources are limited.  The Hospital suffered a large fire which destroyed a good portion of its campus, which is being repaired.


In the year to come, Konbit Sante will be focusing on four health challenges which are: 


(1)  Reduce maternal mortality by bringing more high-risk deliveries to the hospital and preparing the hospital to provide fast, effective care.  In many parts of Haiti, giving birth at home is still the norm - and this is quite dangerous.


(2) Improve Surgery and Emergency Medicine:   The surgeons and emergency medicine specialists at the hospital lack space, equipment, supplies.....not to mention the basics such as clean water and electricity.  A team of U.S.-based emergency medicine physicians is working with their Haitian counterparts to develop a long term sustainable improvement plan.


(3) Delivering Clean Water at Justinian Hospital: Even in the most hygienic of settings, infection control in health care facilities is challenging.  Health care providers need clean water to wash their hands.  Patients and families, particularly when they recovering, need access to drinkable water.  Konbit Sante has already taken steps to improve the water infrastructure and will be drilling an additional well in 2008.


(4) Reaching into the Community for Prevention and Treatment:  As with Project Medishare and Partners in Health, Konbit Sante realizes that the empowerment of health agents can be very effective in educating a community.  Konbit Sante has already hired six who focus on health edcuation and TB outreach, to complement the Hospital's exisiting programs.  The goal is to increase the figure to twenty in the future.  Community Health agents are accessible, trusted, and help create a sense of ownership over public health problems such as infectious disease.


Many Peace Corps Volunteers worked with Konbit Sante and know that their work is making a difference for the North.   As with most small organization, funding is a constant need.  If this project resonates with you, please visit their website and consider providing financial support. 


There are other ways you can help as well.  Konbit Sante needs volunteers who can serve on committees concerning fundraising, volunteer coordination, and supplies.  If, like most of us, you dont live in Portland, you could participate remotely. 


Konbit Sante does not send health care providers to Hospital Justinian to provide hands on support.  This is a band aid solution at best.  They do, however, send staff to the hospital to train and build the capacity of their Haitian colleagues to do the work themselves.  If you are a health care provider, there are opportunities to take part in these trainings.


Building the infrastructure of the Hospital is also a priority.  If you have construction, electrical, or mechanical skills, Konbit Sante can put you to work along with Haitian counterparts.  This could involve putting your brain to work with planning, putting your hands to work with the implementation, or both.


Finally, help is welcome on the community to community relationship.  In 2003, Konbit Sante initiated a sister cities partnership between Portland and Cap Haitian.  If you have ideas for non-clinical, community to community relationships, Konbit Sante would love to hear from you.


I'm a moun Plato Sant.   But I had the opportunity to visit the North many times and find the region and its history fascinating. The Citadel, perhaps the best preserved fort in the Western Hemisphere (who would attack something so well defended?) is there.  Columbus first landed on Hispaniola here, and somewhere off the coast, is one of his ships that sunk.  There are numerous other forts, old colonial style buildings at the city center, and a basic tourist infrastructure with hotels and beautiful beaches.  The largest cruise ship in the United States makes frequent visits to Labadee which is on the outskirts.  The Battle of Vertieres took place in the North as did the ceremony which kicked off the ultimately successful Haitian revolution.


Despite a proud history and much potential, the health care infrastructure is very weak.   Moving forward will require improving the Justinian Hospital and the health care providers who are trying every day to meet the needs of the catchment area.


Konbit Sante is doing its part, and if you would like, there are opportunities for you to take part in this endeavor.  



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