A huge thanks again on behalf of everyone at the appeal for your continued support of our work. The Maternity service in Haiti is developing really well, and we're continuously grateful for this being made possible by individuals like you. For those of you who don't often visit our web-site, we thought we'd share some extracts from a recent blog entry by our CEO when he returned to the UK in January.
'Returning to the UK is always a difficult transition after being in Haiti for a long stint, and this time perhaps I’ve found it the hardest after the tragic scenes witnessed through the cholera epidemic. It was indescribably hard to witness the lives of so many washed away simply because of this poverty driven disease.
There was one particular girl who was abandoned at our site because of the cholera situation. As one of our staff gathered a special little friendship with this girl, it became clear that the family who’d bought her to the centre, weren’t her real family. She was what the Haitians call a ‘restavec’, which basically means she stayed with a host family. This happens in different ways, but for this young girl was done in a manner we’d heard before. An inner city family had gone to the countryside where they’d found a poor family and offered to take one of the children to the city for a ‘better life.’ Poorer families are offered a new life for their child, with promises of education and a future, yet the reality is often quite different. Some do find this life, but others are subjected to a life of modern day slavery, where they take care of all the family chores, rarely ever leaving the home.
As the days passed by we began to capture something of her story and started searching for her real family. When we finally managed to trace her real parents we were left to say a sad good bye to our new found friend, but with the promise we’d visit her the following week. The re-union of her family was both precious but sad, with both father and child affected my the months of separation.
In my final few days in Haiti as promised, we traveled the long journey into the countryside where we entered a small, isolated, mountain village. Here, surrounded by Haiti’s incredible beauty was a small mud hut and an impoverished family. A young mother of 25 years of age, with 6 or 7 children, two of which had become restavecs. Sat outside on a small, humble wooden and straw woven seat was our dear friend, in a worn out nighty, which she wore as a dress, like a beautiful princess. We sat with the family and began to hear a little of their dilemma, though we didn’t need them to highlight why they’d had to let two of their children go. The poverty was all too clear an answer. The empty mud hut, the scantily dressed children, the lack of food, the school next door which they’d never be able to afford, and the lack of family planning and support which meant their family were growing faster than they could cope with.
75% of Haitians are unemployed, and about 75% of births take place at home without any real medical support. These two ’75′ related stats summed up for me the reality of why this family had been left so vulnerable, and reminded me of why our work is so important. Our maternity outreach work will support families like this one through education and family planning. Yet, as I’ve reflected on this one story, I was recently horrified by another ’75′ related statistic. The sad reality is that since the earthquake child trafficking like this has increased in Haiti, with significant problems within the large tent cities. A recent report by The Telegraph commented on how some children were being bought from families for as little as about 75p. It’s almost inconceivable that a child could seemingly be worth so little. Sold for 75p and bought into a new world of varying futures.
The first thought to describe such a reality for the outside world, apart from disbelief, is probably one of neglect. I’ve been asked numerous times how women in Haiti can give their children away, and why they neglect them like this. In nearly every case I have ever seen though, it has not been a case of a mothers neglect, but the neglect of the world. That the inequality of the globe can lead to such families as this girls, in 2011, living in a mud hut, with no food, no education and no future. The reality that some children are being sold for 75p is not a reflection of a neglectful mother, but of a desperate mother left with little or no other choice.
They have little choice, but we do. Supporting our maternity and health work has deeper repercussions that simple health care. Done well, it can help decrease the tragic risk of trafficking and the tragic consequences of such 75p transactions. It can provide huge social change, and stop the long term cycle of such inexcusable injustices. As we undertake what is by far our biggest year yet, I’d ask you to remember such children, and draw alongside our work. Your support can help us share the reality that life is more precious than ’75p.’
If you'd like to read more blogs please visit our web-site: www.haitihospitalappeal.org
Thank you for your continued support with our Infant and Maternity Project in North Haiti. This project will enable us to establish a new era of safer childbirth in a region of over a million people.
Happy New Year
2010 was without doubt the hardest year Haiti Hospital Appeal has ever faced. The tragic events of the earthquake in the first weeks of last year shook the world, and for a few short months Haiti rested upon the hearts of many nations. Yet for HHA, we have been blessed with a support network of people who have remained broken for this nation beyond the initial trauma, and helped achieve some incredible things. For this commitment and support we are deeply grateful, and can’t possibly thank you enough for your love throughout the last 12 months, or put into words the difference you’ve made.
In January 2011, we held a conference with the major parties involved in the maternity project and planned how the service will be introduced to achieve the quality and scope of the service. This includes planning for the construction of a second maternity ward, the training for midwives and doctors and the preparation of medical facilities required for the unit.
We have completed the construction of the pre and post natal wards and delivery rooms, a surgical department for C-sections and emergency surgical needs and a neo-natal unit. Clean, smooth and reliable electrical supply has arrived and been successfully installed. We can now provide constant electricity that is vital for maternity and neo-natal care. We have also installed the ultrasound machine and started providing ultra-sound screening for anti natal consultations. It was such a memorable moment when Dr Adlin, who HHA had been supporting in Paris for 6 months on an ultra sound course, switched on this new machine and declared ‘by next week we’ll be able to provide ultra sound.’
The next stage will be equipping these units with incubators, surgical equipment and a blood bank, as well as training the Hatian staff for the use of the equipment and new services we are providing.
Mobile Health Clinic
Reaching into the heart of the community will be a major priority for this project. We will provide support for community midwives, providing them with birth kits designed to reduce risk and save lives. Together with Konbit Sante we are also launching a mobile health clinic which will provide screening, inoculation services to the local communities. Unfortunately, the vehicle to provide the mobile clinic is still in the container port waiting custom clearance.
In partnership with our maternity program, we will be launching the Paediatric Program. This will include both on site support at our hospital through a fully equipped neo-natal and paediatric unit, as well as community based care within rural areas and some of the poorest slums across the North. The Program will be providing vaccination, monitoring child development, nutritional support, nourishment programs for malnourished children, health education for families, and an inpatient and outpatient service.
Thanks again for your contributions you have helped changed the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in Haiti.
The Haiti Hospital Appeal Team
For those who have been following our work more regularly via our web-site you'll have noticed that it's been a busy few months. It would be impossible to share everything in one update now, so please do take a look at our site.
However, to give you a little glimpse into the highs and lows of recent months we wanted to share one particular blog with you by some of our team who have been on the ground in Haiti...
'When I first came to Haiti I was struck by the tragic injustice of seeing an 11 year old girl called Julia die simply because the doctors didn’t have the basic equipment to save her. It was an image I’ll never forget, and one that changed my life forever. Yet since living in Haiti, the tragic loss of seeing children die has become all too much a part of weekly existence. So much so that at times the tragic health care situation here becomes almost ‘normal.’
In the last few weeks my heart has been broken afresh by the reality of what it is we’re called together to do. One of our children at Maison de Benediction had a seizure last week and was subsequently referred to the Government Hospital. The next day I went to visit this little one with a few friends who were visiting. It was my first time in the pediatric ward for several months. In some ways I’d forgotten just how tragic this little ward is, but also just how inspiring.
I was greeted by Dr Toussaint who took me to see the little boy. We walked through the dimly lit ward, surrounded by old rusty cots holding the fragile bodies of a host of malnourished and poorly children. When we arrived besides the bed of our little child, I looked as I have done many times into the eyes of Dr Toussaint to ask his prognosis. He looked at me with the same frustration and familiarity as he has done many times before. ‘The prognosis is poor’ he said. ‘He needs a CT scan but we don’t have one in the North. He needs some equipment to clear his lungs but we don’t have one.’ It was a repeat of my first experience in Haiti. An inspiring and highly skilled doctor denied the right to save a child’s simply because of a lack of equipment. ‘We know what to do’ he continued ‘but we just don’t have anything.’ The next day we were informed that the little boy had sadly passed away. If I’m honest it came as no great surprise, but was never the less a harrowing and emotional reminder of why we’re here, and the battle for justice we face. Unjustly the battle for this little one had been lost on earth.
Yet, that same day we finally had three containers released from customs which was a great joy! Some had been stuck in customs for several months. All were packed full of aid from different NGO’s to support our earthquake relief effort. Yet there was one that delivered a particularly meaningful gift that day – 5 incubators and 2 baby bed warmers…pieces of equipment we’ve only dared to dream about. I’ve just started reading a book with the speeches of Martin Luther King, in which he says ‘Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.’ Amidst the tragedy of seeing another child die that day, came an act of love from another NGO which sought to correct that injustice which revolts against so many children in Haiti. This was more than the delivery of some equipment. This was a delivery of hope, of justice, of progress, of a battle won.
The next day after hours of carefully getting these out of containers using an army of Haitian men, Dr Toussaint arrived on site. As we took him into the room where we are storing these incubators his face lit up like a child on Christmas day. I’ve never seen an adult smile with such joy, hope, happiness, and fulfillment. We all knew just what a difference these pieces of equipment would make and just how many lives they would save! It was this doctor’s dream to see children in Haiti given the support they deserve. After years of work, this was an epic step closer to that dream being fulfilled. A dream of equality, a dream of life and hope and justice. A dream of our little hospital in some small way correcting the darkness which has revolted against this poor nation for too many years. Another act of justice made possible by you, our supporters.
This day highlighted the battles won and the battles lost in our call to fight for equality and justice. It’s a battle worth fighting though, and one we hope you’ll join us on.'
If you'd like to respond to this blog in some way please take the time to make a donation to our project, share this entry with some friends or family, or visit our web-site: www.haitihospitalappeal.org
Thank you for your continued support of our work!
Everyday there is more progress with the spinal injury patients who reside in
what will eventually be the maternity ward in our hospital. I would like to
share with you the story of Samuel, one of the heroic survivors of the
earthquake who we care for. Samuel is a quadriplegic, perhaps one of the worst
injured victims of the earthquake. After the earthquake he was completely
paralysed, but has now gained some movement in his arms again. Despite the
tragic fate that seemed to await him, Samuel now sits up, and with a little help
pushes himself around the ward at short intervals when he can gather the
strength. Whilst we begin to gradually transform the ward so it can be used for
its originally purpose of maternity care, the service it is providing at the
moment is an amazing and inspiring one.
Casualties with spinal injuries are uncared for in much of Haiti and this project brings
hope and life to those who previously would have had no expectations for a future.
A rehab unit is in planning to care for these patients in the long term so that the maternity
and infant unit can be used for the purpose originally intended. A nurse working in
the ward said:
‘Before the earthquake we had no rehabilitation centre in Haiti. It costs a lot
of money, but every time someone gives their support it helps our people here.
It is very important to have a rehabilitation centre. The people here faced
death and no normal life. Because of this hospital they have strength, and some
are discharged and have hope.’
As well as the progress in the lives of these patients, progress has been made
in the long term aim to provide better health care for women and children, this
week building work commenced on the final stages of the infant unit which will
hopefully be finished within a matter of months. Plans for the maternity project
are evolving, including the equipping of traditional birth attendants in the city
of Cap Haitien with mobile phones for when they need advice and help.
Yesterday our health clinic was packed with mothers and their children as they
waited for vaccinations, many mothers had two or three young children with them
and your support is going to help fund an infant unit to care for these children
in the future and other children like them around Cap Haitien.
On the six month anniversary of the tragic earthquake on January 12th we are
launching a new campaign called 'We Won't Forget' on our main web site:
Despite the promises of many, Haiti has already been forgotten it would seem by
the majority of the world. We're making a stand this anniversary and calling
all our supporters to declare that Haiti isn't forgotten! For those who remain
skeptical about what aid actually does, I would encourage you to visit our new
site that was launched a few weeks ago. It's packed full of stories and news
about what you've achieved! As a small grass root NGO in Haiti you have made a
difference through us. Spinal victims saved, tones of aid distributed,
emergency clinic set up. Yet, there is still so much to do. As most of the world moves
on and forget, we'd ask that today you don't.
Please take two minutes and visit our 'We Won't Forget' campaign! Thanks again
for all your help at this difficult time and we look forward to working with you
in helping to rebuild Haiti in the coming months.
To those of you who have been following our work in the last few years, you'll know that we've been seeking to complete a new Maternity Unit for the people of North Haiti. The good news is, that thanks to your help two of these buildings have been completed in the last few months and are now ready for action!
However, at the moment they are being used for a slightly different purpose than maternity care, through they are still offering new life. The news of the earthquake disaster that struck Haiti may have now faded from your televisions and papers, yet the urgent need still remains! Some of the most desperate victims who have been left forgotten are those who suffered severe spinal injuries, leaving many paralysed.
Before the earthquake spinal care in Haiti was non-existent, with most patients with spinal injuries being left to die. After the earthquake vast numbers of individuals were requiring urgent long term rehab support to get them through their devastating injuries. The Haiti Hospital Appeal subsequently responded to the need by allowing our finished maternity unit to house 20 paraplegic victims from the earthquake. This is a short term measure, as we still hope that these buildings will be used for their intended purpose in the next few months.
However, the strange reality is that though this new unit is not seeing new life born through babies, it is seeing life born in adults. Thanks to your support getting these buildings completed, we have seen individuals learn to walk again, others speak for the first time in months after the earthquake. People's lives are being re-built; many who have lost everything. One of our patients lost almost all her family including her husband, children and sisters. Another was only re-united for the first time yesterday with her husband and child who thought their beloved mother and wife had died. Lives and families are being transformed and saved, as many of these patients would have died without your help in providing this unit! Yesterday I also had the privilege of dropping our first patient home. She arrived after the earthquake unable to even sit up, completely bed bound. She left yesterday walking out the ward proudly as a woman of new life, with a gleaming smile upon her face when we dropped her home.
I would ask from the bottom of my heart that you continue to remember this desperate nation in their time of healing. The process for many is long and painful. Haiti Hospital Appeal have committed to doing all we can to see these patients supported, but we need your help! We're currently supporting 17 victims with severe spinal injuries, including providing care for their displaced family members. We are actively looking into building a specific spinal unit so our maternity care can get up and running soon. Hopefully the next time we write we'll have news of our first baby born at the unit you've helped build!
Thanks for your continued heart for our work. If you'd like to continue supporting us please visit www.haitihospitalappeal.org, where you can get more regular up to date information!
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