Partners In Health (PIH)

Our mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair. We draw on the resources of the world's leading medical and academic institutions and on the lived experience of the world's poorest and sickest communities. At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When our patients are ill and have no access to care, our team of health professi...
Jun 11, 2013

Maternal Mortality Reduction - June 2013 Update

Photo Credit: Susan Sayers
Photo Credit: Susan Sayers

Dear Partners In Health Supporter,

Please accept our heartfelt gratitude for your partnership in preventing maternal deaths in the rural, mountainous communities where we work in Lesotho.  Below, please find an update on the Maternal Mortality Reduction Project that we recently published in our quarterly newsletter. As always, please be in touch with any questions that you have about our work. 

**Tomorrow, June 12, is a GlobalGiving bonus day!  All donations made through GlobalGiving tomorrow only will be matched at 50% (the maximum level -- awarded only to the organizations with the Superstar rewards level status!).  Help us to save more lives by spreading the word and by giving your gift tomorrow. Thank you!


For many people living in rural Lesotho, reaching a health clinic takes an hours-long hike through mountains. For pregnant women, the journey is even more daunting.

But more than two years ago, PIH/Lesotho (PIH/L) began a program to prevent maternal deaths by making high-quality care accessible to women during pregnancy, in childbirth, and after delivery. Since then, the program has expanded to all seven clinics PIH/L serves, with dramatic results. Since the beginning of the program, more than 2,800 babies have been delivered at PIH/L-supported health clinics. From 2010 to 2012, the use of family planning has increased by more than 65 percent, and 25 percent more women and children have received care to prevent the spread of HIV from mother to child.

The comprehensive program centers on maternal health workers who make regular home visits to find pregnant women and accompany them to clinics for antenatal care and delivery. PIH/L has also established seven mothers’ waiting houses. Now, women in labor can avoid an hours-long walk to a clinic and be close to care when labor starts. PIH/L Country Director Dr. Hind Satti said the entire staff, from drivers to nurse midwives, are committed to preventing maternal deaths.

“We are not going to accept any maternal deaths,” said Dr. Satti. “We all started with that spirit—that there is no reason a woman should die during pregnancy or giving birth.”

Jun 10, 2013

Childhood Malnutrition in Haiti - June 2013 Update


Thank you for your generous support of Partners In Health and our Childhood Malnutrition in Haiti project on globalgiving.  We are excited to share a selection of photos taken by Rebecca Rollins in Cange, Haiti, documenting our work to eliminate unnecessary suffering and death by providing free comprehensive health care for children, including treatment of malnutrition. With many other child-centered programs in the poor communities where PIH works, we offer children the same essential rights and services that have virtually eliminated deaths from common childhood ailments in rich countries.  We are deeply grateful for your support in making this work possible. 

1) December 10, 2012, Cange, Haiti, Steve is a three year old orphan living on the campus at Cange. His mother brought him to the clinic sometime around September 2012 for treatment for malnutrition. He was admitted and recovered, but his mother never returned.  

2) and 3) December 10, 2012, Cange, Haiti, Children at the Cange malnutrition clinic are measured, weighed and fed.

4) December 10, 2012, Cange, Haiti, A child suffering from malnutrition at the pediatric inpatient unit in Cange is fed nourimanba by his mother.  

May 14, 2013

Mirebalais Hospital, Haiti - May 2013 update

Jon Lascher/Operating Room at University Hospital
Jon Lascher/Operating Room at University Hospital

Five Feats of Engineering at HUM

It was by way of a joke that Dr. Paul Farmer introduced Ann Polaneczky to a crowded room at PIH’s Boston office. “What comes to my mind when I think of Ann, is stool,” Farmer said, causing the 24-year-old civil engineer to blush with pride. When the collective burst of laughter tamped down, Farmer qualified the punch line by expounding on the importance of Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais’ (HUM) wastewater treatment system, and how Polaneczky helped shape it. 

“The wastewater treatment system at Mirebalais, the guts of the hospital, is truly remarkable. It takes the wastewater, the gray water as it’s called, and runs it through a pretty sophisticated but easy-to-maintain system that gets checked every day,” Farmer said. “We never had that in Haiti—not just in a hospital, we never had it at any public-sector institution. It’s hard to know why these things are so significant without knowing how absent they are in a lot of places in the world. This system is just one example of how a modern hospital runs that’s worth getting to know.”

With that sentiment in mind, we asked Polaneczky, PIH’s project engineer, to walk us through five of her favorite feats of engineering at HUM.

Wastewater Treatment System

What it does: Every drop of wastewater produced at HUM—whether from a toilet, an operating room sink, or dirty laundry—passes through this low-energy, low-maintenance system. The water first enters a biological treatment process known as aerobic digestion in which naturally grown bacteria decompose organic waste and devour pathogenic organisms, such as Vibrio choleraethe bacterium that causes cholera. From there, the water is treated with chlorine for further disinfection. Right now, the system can treat 50,000 gallons of wastewater per day to U.S. EPA standards. If needed, Polaneczky says, it can be expanded to treat 75,000 gallons a day. 

Why it’s important: The immediate benefit is that the system significantly reduces the threat of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and dysentery. But there’s a less tangible benefit that Polaneczky is keen on: “We want to show that it’s possible to treat wastewater in an efficient, economical, and sustainable way in Haiti and other low-resource countries,” she says. “This shows that it can be done.”


What it does: This school-bus-size machine allows HUM staff to properly dispose of biohazardous medical waste and used sharps, including syringes and scalpels. Polaneczky explains that the system meets U.S. EPA emission standards. How? The waste is burnt in a controlled fire in the machine’s first chamber. The resulting smoke is captured in a second chamber that reaches 1,000 degrees Celsius—similar to the temperature of liquid lava—and essentially gets vaporized. The end result is steam and a small pile of ash.

Why it’s important: Properly disposing medical waste is critically important, yet many health care facilities in Haiti don’t have the necessary equipment to do so. It’s not uncommon for human waste to be mixed with sharps and garbage, and then burnt in crude devices or trash pits. The noxious fumes are bad for the environment and human health. As HUM integrates into Haiti’s health system, the incinerator may serve as a central location to dispose of medical waste produced at other PIH/ZL sites. 

Fiber Optic Network

What it does: Polaneczky describes the fiber optic network as the “backbone of the hospital,” providing high-speed Internet access throughout the facility. A robust server package donated by HP optimizes it. High-tech and resilient, HUM’s IT system supports everything from patient registration to inventory management to digital radiography.

Why it’s important: HUM is the first teaching hospital in central Haiti. When medical education and training begin, Haitian doctors can consult with partners in Boston and beyond as needed through video conferencing and other digital technology, which extend from the operating rooms to the hospital’s classrooms. On a day-to-day basis, the network improves efficiency and facilitates monitoring, evaluation, and quality improvement projects.

Medical Gas System

What it does: Behind the walls of HUM is a labyrinth of copper pipes and vacuum and air lines that ensures patients in need of oxygen have quick access to it—whether they’re undergoing surgery, being cared for in the emergency room, or in recovery. A major asset of HUM is that it has its own oxygen concentrator, a device that removes nitrogen from the air to produce medical-grade oxygen.

Why it’s important: Without this system, we’d need to have bedside oxygen tanks available for any patient in need of oxygen, which is both expensive and logistically difficult. Additionally, suction and compressed air would need to be supplied for patients. Quick access to these oxygen and suction tubes allows us to deliver better care to more patients. 


What it does: Given that HUM stretches over 200,000 square feet and includes a pharmacy that stores temperature-sensitive medications, effective climate control was a must. The hospital boasts four 12.5-ton rooftop cooling units and a separate 20-ton condenser for the pharmacy. In areas of the hospital where air conditioning would be a luxury, the designers opted for energy-efficient ceiling fans and elegant design that fosters natural air flow.

Why it’s important: It’s not about just keeping cool. “The HVAC system supports infection control in operating rooms and allows us to preserve medical equipment,” Polaneczky says. HUM’s HVAC system, she explains, utilizes HEPA filtration and laminar flow, meaning the air is pushed from ceiling to floor rather than across a room, which minimizes the risk of surgical infections.

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