Provide medical care to Haiti

by International Medical Corps
Teams providing a mosquito net simulation
Teams providing a mosquito net simulation

The mosquito-borne virus, Zika, has infected more than 700 people in Haiti, and with the babies of infected pregnant women at risk for birth defects, such as microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, prevention is critical.

International Medical Corps has been working in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake—first, to respond to the emergency medical needs, and, in succeeding years, to the cholera outbreaks in the North and Northeast departments.

We have extensive experience implementing infection prevention and control measures. We responded to the Ebola outbreak and continue to work with governments in the West Africa region to help them build their health systems back up and prepare for the next outbreak. We provided polio and other vaccines for children, training health workers to watch for early symptoms in several countries in Asia and Africa. And, our teams responded to cholera outbreaks in Nigeria, Cameroon, and other affected countries, in addition to Haiti.

Zika is an emerging virus first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys while monitoring for Yellow Fever. In 1952, the virus emerged in humans in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Now, officials recorded outbreaks of the Zika virus in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. The first 5 Haitian cases of Zika were identified on January 18, 2016.

To address Zika, we targeted two health facilities located in flood zones in Cap Haïtien: the Fort St Michel Hospital and the Complexe Médico-Social of Lafossette. Our teams trained 30 nurses and other health care personnel to go on and educate pregnant women to increase Zika awareness and prevention during pre-natal visits, with a special focus to women in their first trimester.

To date, we reached 650 pregnant women with education on Zika prevention. Our teams provided information to communicate what Zika is, its symptoms, and preventative actions, including information on how to avoid mosquito bites. We also distributed pamphlets in the commonly-spoken language, Creole, to further increase awareness. In addition, our teams disseminated 100 insecticide-treated nets and 100 mosquito repellent sprays, along with information about how to use them and their importance, to further reduce the risk of the virus.

Alongside these interventions, our mobile medical teams are educating communities about the importance of preventing mosquito bites to limit Zika, while speaking about cholera prevention—which is also linked to poor drainage and sanitation. These teams reached 650 women with awareness activities.

Staff from the two health facilities, government officials and the women we educated, were appreciative of International Medical Corps’ efforts to prevent the terrible potential effects of Zika on babies, and would like more women to benefit from our work in the future.

We thank you and the GlobalGiving community for your support as we work with the local populations to provide medical care and help prevent the spread of infection and disease in places like Haiti and across the world.  

Educating communities is critical for prevention
Educating communities is critical for prevention
We reached Fort St Michel Hospital with training
We reached Fort St Michel Hospital with training
Jean outside the St. Raphael Health Facility
Jean outside the St. Raphael Health Facility

Jean is a 56-year-old security guard at the St. Raphaël Health Facility in Haiti, the hospital where he was born. He survived the January 2010 earthquake and remembers when the cholera epidemic began, nine months later, in September. At the height of the outbreak, the St. Raphaël Health Facility received up to 20 cholera patients a day, with only two nurses to support the overwhelming influx of patients. “Our services were not very good,” Jean recalls. “The facility only had six beds so our patients had to lie down on the ground outside. People were dying every week.”

A combination of a history of poverty, natural disaster, neglected public water and sanitation systems, and under-resourced health infrastructure have magnified the impact of cholera in Haiti. International Medical Corps has been responding since 2010 with rapid treatment and long-term prevention services in the North Department and the North East Department of Haiti.

“Since International Medical Corps came here we started seeing fewer and fewer cases of cholera almost immediately,” says Jean.

Despite this progress, rapid response to cholera remains critical, particularly for the men, women and children living in remote and hard-to-reach areas. Due to mountainous terrain and a lack of roads, seeking health care can be a challenge—as can getting to the communities. As cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, our Mobile Medical Units respond to reports of cases within 24-48 hours. These teams are staffed by doctors and nurses and carry medicines and medical supplies that may be needed.

Because cholera thrives in places where clean water and proper sanitation are not consistently available, Mobile Medical Units are a critical piece of a total response that includes providing Cholera Kits to affected households. These kits include a bucket, soap, aquatabs, and oral rehydration solution. We also disinfect the home itself along with the ten closest homes and latrines, using the cordon sanitaire strategy, effectively creating a barrier against further infection.

International Medical Corps trains community health workers in disease surveillance and medical response. We also empower local communities to change behaviors favorable to the spread of cholera. Our cholera treatment and prevention campaigns include teaching the importance of hand-washing and using latrines, and keeping livestock from defecating in homes. We demonstrate the importance of boiling water to avoid contamination and the risk for cholera.

Our focus group discussions, educational campaigns in the schools, coordination meetings between health facility staff and community health workers, and radio messaging all contribute to stopping the spread of cholera.

Now thirty-four years into his job, Jean has many roles. In addition to being a security guard, he trains and supervises a team of 17 hygienists and cleaners, and works as a logistician for nutritional medical supplies and as a technician to ensure clean water at the St. Raphaël Health Facility. Jean shares International Medical Corps’ dedication to reaching those most in need.

We thank you and GlobalGiving for your support as we continue to address the most urgent medical needs in Haiti.

The team disinfecting a home to stop cholera
The team disinfecting a home to stop cholera
Community hand-washing demonstration
Community hand-washing demonstration
Medical Care in Haiti
Medical Care in Haiti

Cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water with the bacteria that causes it, can kill within hours if left untreated. However, with proper care the mortality rate is under 1%. The deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti is still on the rise, with an estimated 50,000 new cases this past year, up from the approximate 28,000 in 2014. More than 8,800 people have died from cholera and more than 736,000 Haitians have been infected since the outbreak began in 2010, months after the devastating earthquake.

International Medical Corps is proud to be the only international aid organization operating in the North and Northeast departments nearest Cap-Haitien, where the need for cholera treatment is great. International Medical Corps’ applies a holistic approach to cholera case management, recently training 90 health professionals and providing education for remote affected communities on prevention. When a cholera victim is identified, the teams disinfect his or her home to prevent the spread of cases. International Medical Corps is also advocating for, and repairing and building new cholera beds, which are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of cholera patients. The beds are typically simple to maintain, promoting hygiene and allowing for ease of access to bed pans.

With 33 cases already reported in the first two days of 2016, fighting cholera in Haiti is as critical as ever. Our mobile medical units are working every day to treat patients in cholera treatment units and in communities. As cholera is caused by contaminated water, we are also constantly working to reduce its risk by building sanitary infrastructures, including clean water sources, latrines, showers, foot baths and handwashing stations, as well as by building kitchens with access to clean water in local schools.

With the support of GlobalGiving and other generous donors, International Medical Corps continues its commitment to serve the most vulnerable populations and administer lifesaving treatment for cholera in Haiti.

Nurse Marie-Anne
Nurse Marie-Anne

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Haiti and the leading cause of cancer death in Haitian women, with an estimated 1,500 deaths annually. In fact, Haiti has the highest reported incidence of cervical cancer of any country in the world, with 94 cases per 100,000 women—50 times higher than the rate in the United States. This disease is preventable, but women in Haiti have not benefited from Pap test screening due to a lack of trained pathologists and a poor healthcare infrastructure. There is no radiation therapy and limited chemotherapy available, and surgical interventions do not meet current standards of care. The result is that 90% of Haitians have no access to cancer treatment. The remaining 10%, i.e., those who can afford it, go to places like neighboring Havana or Miami for their care.

In developing economies like Haiti’s, the WHO recommends using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) or Visual Inspection with Lugol's Iodine (VILI), followed by cryotherapy if suspicious cervical lesions are visible, also known as the low-cost “see and treat” method. Not only can VIA detect early dysplastic, or precancerous lesions, it also has the advantage that the procedure can be performed by nurses, with treatment offered the same day. VIA has been successfully introduced into many developing countries with great success—including by International Medical Corps in 11 health facilities in Kenya currently, in close partnership with CureCervicalCancer (CCC) and generous donors.

International Medical Corps Nurse Marie-Anne is one of the nurses in Haiti who has become certified in “see and treat.” She is a young, passionate and hardworking woman who grew up and works in Cap-Haitien, the center of International Medial Corps operations. Anne mentioned that when she was young, she was not interested in health care and nursing. She only developed her passion for this work after she moved to Port-au-Prince and finished high school. She now dedicates her career to caring for every patient with kindness and compassion.

Anne is the current Cervical Cancer Program Director for International Medical Corps in Haiti and does tremendous work to ensure the program’s success. Our ultimate goal in this Haiti program is to educate and train dedicated and competent local healthcare professionals, so that they become trainers themselves to expand the “see and treat” method. This train-the-trainer model allows International Medical Corps to expand its reach and save the lives of thousands of women who would have otherwise died from a fatal, pervasive and preventable disease. In early summer, in partnership with CCC, Anne led cervical cancer screening and treatment training for healthcare professionals from various hospitals and clinics in north and north-west Haiti.

This program—and Marie-Anne’s competence—is an excellent example of International Medical Corps’ mission to save lives and implement sustainable programs.

It is with the help of GlobalGiving and other donors that we are able to continue these life-saving programs and deliver necessary care to Haitian women and their families. Thank you so much for your continued support.

Preparing to disinfect home of a cholera patient
Preparing to disinfect home of a cholera patient

Currently, International Medical Corps is operational in the North of Haiti. Our main office is in Cap Haitien and we have a sub-office in Fort Liberté, allowing us to work in two of the three departments in the North of Haiti.

June and July 2015  have been very rewarding months for International Medical Corps’ two programs in northern Haiti. First, we are fighting cholera outbreaks, an ongoing problem that first emerged a few months after the 2010 earthquake. According to the World Health Organization, cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, but with proper care the mortality is under 1%. International Medical Corps staff therefore recently trained 90 health professionals on cholera case management. In addition, when a cholera victim is identified, we disinfect homes and provide education for remote affected communities on prevention. As cholera is caused by contaminated water, we reduce its risk by building sanitary infrastructure, including clean water sources, latrines, showers, foot baths and hand-washing stations, as well as building kitchens with clean water in local schools.

International Medical Corps has also repaired and built new cholera beds, and has been advocating for infant cholera beds. These are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of cholera patients. They are typically easy to maintain, promoting hygiene and allowing for ease of access to bed pans. International Medical Corps’ approach to cholera case management is therefore holistic and very well known in the North and North East Departments of Haiti. Fighting cholera in Haiti is as critical as ever as during the first four months of 2015, the number of reported cholera cases was nearly 400% higher than what was reported during the same period in 2014.

We have recently kicked off our new cervical cancer program, one of the few cancers that can be prevented if caught early. International Medical Corps trained and equipped 22 doctors and nurses so they can screen for early cervical cancer by using a low-cost and effective screening technique known as Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA). Women who test positive receive cryotherapy treatment on the spot using the “see and treat” method recommended by the World Health Organization. We have also trained community health workers to educate local women on the benefits of the screening. During the summer of 2015, International Medical Corps will screen 1,800 women in 11 government-supported health facilities and provide the training curriculum to local nursing schools.

International Medical Corps’ critically needed work in the affected communities of Northern Haiti has been possible thanks to the support of GlobalGiving and other donors. It is truly making a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

Flood walls built to prevent flooding
Flood walls built to prevent flooding

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International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website: https:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Los Angeles, CA United States
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