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 ...
May 3, 2013

Education for Children in Malawi - May 2013 update

We are excited to share a short update on our work to support children in Neno to attend school. We have continued to distribute school supplies to children in our Program on Social and Economic Rights, reaching nearly 2,000 children over this past school year.

In February, the Program on Social and Economic Rights traveled to Mlemeka Primary School, a small school located in the mountains of upper Neno, to distribute school supplies to about 50 children in the program. Rain thundered against the tin sheets of the small school block where parents and children had gathered to receive their school supplies for the term.  All of the children are in families who have been determined to be especially vulnerable in need of support; many of them have been impacted by HIV/AIDS both with currently sick family members or family members who have been lost to the illness. 

As a PIH staff member read names on the distribution list, parents approached the front of the room to collect the supplies for their children. Exercise books, pens, and pencils—enough supplies for each child to use for the school term.  Older students receive math supplies such as protractors and rulers.

Judith, a mother of three school-aged children and a total of seven children, came to Mlemeka to collect her children’s school supplies. “I don’t know how I would survive without POSER help,” she says, clutching a stack of exercise books in one arm and a small child in the other. As a single mother with no husband or family members to help her, she stays very busy taking care of her children and growing crops in her small garden to feed the family. “If [PIH] didn’t help me, I would have to go back to work [to pay for the school supplies.”] Instead, she is able to focus on taking care of her children and PIH ensures her children are able to attend school. 

We are continuing to fundraise to cover school fees and school supplies for children in the next term (August 2013). Thank you to everyone who has supported this project. We look forward to continuing to update you on how you are helping to make a difference for children in Neno, Malawi! 

May 3, 2013

PIH Haiti Earthquake Recovery - May 2013 update

Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital Turns on the Lights—Sustainably

Since the earthquake, Partners In Health (PIH) has focused on rebuilding the damaged healthcare and health education systems in Haiti in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health. Constructing and opening a new national teaching hospital, Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais (HUM), was one huge step towards achieving this goal, and PIH is proud to share how this vision is now a sustainable reality. 

It’s among the most basic, most critical, and most overlooked resources needed to run a hospital: electricity. But in Haiti’s Central Plateau, the flow of electricity is intermittent at best. Consider that in Mirebalais, located 30 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the power goes out for an average of three hours each day. This poses an enormous challenge to running any hospital: surgeries are jeopardized, neonatal ventilators stall, the cold chain is interrupted, and countless everyday tasks get derailed. As Partners In Health co-founder Paul Farmer noted at a recent lecture at the Harvard School of Public Health, “It’s not great if you’re a surgeon and you have to think about getting the generator going.”

To ensure patients and staff at HUM weren’t left in the dark when the 300-bed hospital opened in March, PIH and its partners looked toward the sun. Stretched across the roof of the new 200,000-square-foot hospital is a vast and meticulously arranged array of 1,800 solar panels.

On a bright day, these panels are expected to produce more energy than the hospital will consume. Before the hospital even opened, the system churned out 139 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to charge 22 million smartphones and offset 72 tons of coal. Perhaps most important is that the excess electricity will be fed back into Haiti’s national grid, giving a much-needed boost to the country’s woefully inadequate energy infrastructure.

 “At each step of the way, we were attempting things that had never before been done in Haiti,” said Jim Ansara, volunteer HUM director of design and construction and a longtime PIH supporter. In a country ravaged by deforestation, the benefit to the environment cannot be overstated: HUM’s solar array has already offset more than 140,000 pounds of carbon emissions. Annually, the system is expected to save 210 metric tons of carbon emissions.

The system also carries a financial benefit. In Haiti, electricity is six times as expensive as in New England: the price per kilowatt hour is 35 cents, compared with 5.5 cents in New England. Using solar energy is expected to slash $379,000 from HUM’s projected annual operating costs. It’s also estimated that, overall, the hospital will create 800 jobs for Haitians. When fully operational, HUM is expected to be the largest solar-powered hospital in the world that produces more than 100 percent of its energy during peak daylight hours.

Apr 8, 2013

PIH Response to Cholera in Haiti - April 2013

On February 28, 2013, Partners In Health's Executive Director Ophelia Dahl sent an email to supporters sharing the powerful words of Dr. Louise Ivers, the clinician who led the cholera vaccination effort in Haiti.  We are excited to share with you Dr. Ivers' op-ed, which was published in the New York Times on February 22nd, prefaced by Ophelia's email: 

Since cholera broke out in Haiti more than two years ago, Partners In Health has worked alongside many others to fight the deadly epidemic. 

With the support of our partners, we have treated tens of thousands of patients. Last year, we delivered Haiti's first cholera vaccination campaign along with our partner in Port-au-Prince, GHESKIO.

On Friday, the clinician who led that vaccination effort, Dr. Louise Ivers, published an op-ed in The New York Times in which she called on the United Nations to make a significant financial contribution to a multilateral plan to eliminate cholera in Haiti.

Partners In Health supporters have stood resolutely by us as we have fought cholera through all the means at our disposal, integrating prevention, treatment, and efforts to increase access to clean water and sanitation. Today, I invite you to read Louise's powerful words:

Published February 22, 2013, in The New York Times:

A Chance to Right a Wrong in Haiti
by Louise C. Ivers

On Thursday, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, rejected a legal claim for compensation filed in 2011 on behalf of cholera victims in Haiti. Through a spokesperson, Mr. Ban said the claims, brought by a nongovernmental organization, were “not receivable” because of the United Nations’ diplomatic immunity.

Regardless of the merits of this argument, the United Nations has a moral, if not legal, obligation to help solve a crisis it inadvertently helped start. The evidence shows that the United Nations was largely, though not wholly, responsible for an outbreak of cholera that has subsequently killed some 8,000 Haitians and sickened 646,000 more since October 2010. The United Nations has not acknowledged its culpability.

Now, as the cholera epidemic appears to worsen, Mr. Ban and the United Nations have an opportunity to save thousands of lives, restore good will — and, yes, fulfill the mandate that brought the organization to Haiti in the first place: stabilizing a fragile country. The United Nations should immediately increase its financial support for the Haitian government’s efforts to control the epidemic. While that may not satisfy everyone, it will go at least some way toward compensating the people of Haiti for the unintentional introduction of the bacteria that caused the epidemic.

Before October 2010, cholera — a diarrheal illness caused by consuming water or food contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae — had never been reported in the country. In the epidemic’s first year, the striking loss of life attracted international media attention. Even in its third year, the outbreak continues to sicken thousands.

There were 11,220 cases nationwide during the month of December — significantly more than the 8,205 cases seen during December 2011. Our clinic in St. Marc treated more people with the infection last month than in the previous eight months combined.

That soldiers at the United Nations camp were responsible for introducing the bacteria seems apparent. After local and national protests and an Associated Press investigation, Mr. Ban empaneled a group of international experts to determine the disease’s source. Their report stated that evidence “overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the source of the Haiti cholera outbreak was due to contamination of the Meye Tributary of the Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae as a result of human activity.” The strain was not indigenous to Haiti.

The report also found that sanitation conditions at the United Nations camp were not sufficient to prevent contamination of the local waterway with human waste. Investigators found that the potential existed for feces to enter the tributary from a drainage canal in the camp and from the open septic disposal pit that was used to handle the waste.

A research study published in January 2011 in The New England Journal of Medicine lent further support to the claim that the cholera came from the United Nations camp, as did an August 2011 study in another scholarly journal.

The interplay of biosocial factors inherently involved in epidemics make it difficult to pinpoint causality. If Haitians had better access to clean water and sanitation, of course, the cholera epidemic would have had a smaller impact and thousands of deaths might have been averted. (By comparison, there were few, if any, deaths from cholera in countries with effective water and sanitation systems where the organism appeared as part of this same epidemic — including the United States.)

But all of this is background to the urgent matter at hand. The United Nations recently started a 10-year initiative to eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, based on a plan that was developed with multiple partners, including the governments of both countries. It is a collaborative and comprehensive approach that aims to eliminate transmission of the disease with substantial investments in water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as through prevention and treatment.

On Feb. 27, Haiti’s minister of health will introduce one important component of this plan — an initiative to expand access to cholera vaccination.

If the United Nations were to finance this initiative, along with the rest of the government’s anti-cholera program, it could have a significant and immediate impact on stemming this epidemic. As of now, however, the United Nations plans to contribute just 1 percent of the cost. That is not enough.

Meanwhile, the organization’s stabilization mission in Haiti is budgeted for $648 million this year — a sum that could more than finance the entire cholera elimination initiative for two years.

It’s time for the United Nations to rethink what true stabilization could be: preventing people from dying of a grueling, painful — and wholly preventable — disease is a good start.

Louise C. Ivers, a senior health and policy adviser at Partners In Health and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, has been leading cholera treatment and prevention activities in Haiti.


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