Provide medical care to Haiti

by International Medical Corps Vetted since 2008 Top Ranked Site Visit Verified
Our team evaluates a woman after Hurricane Mathew
Our team evaluates a woman after Hurricane Mathew

International Medical Corps’ seven-year response in Haiti has now come to a close. We first arrived in Haiti on January 13, 2010 to provide emergency medical care and support health facilities after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island on January 12. Since then, our focus has been addressing Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which broke out just nine months after the earthquake, and on helping communities build back better in the wake of disaster and disease.

When we reflect on our work over the past seven years, we think first of the 230,000 people who lost their lives during the earthquake and the 4,856 more who lost their lives to the first wave of cholera, which infected 283,362 people October 2010 to April 2011. Though the suffering of these events remains present in our minds today, what we will remember most about Haiti is the resilience of its people—their courage in the wake of tragedy and their commitment to building a brighter future.

While poverty and political strife still fog the road ahead, it has been International Medical Corps’ mission since we arrived to leave Haiti’s health care system on a more solid footing. By training thousands of local health staff so that they can be their own best First Responders, building sustainable infrastructure, and educating communities on proper sanitation and hygiene practices, we believe we have. Below are some of the highlights of our work.

We arrived in Haiti within 22 hours of the 2010 earthquake. We set up an initial base of operations at the Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti, the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince. Volunteer doctors and nurses worked around the clock to save lives and heal the injured. At the peak, our 408 medical volunteers saw as many as 1,000 patients a day, while at the same time training over 1,505 local health care providers.

Within two weeks, we established 13 primary health clinics in displacement camps and earthquake-affected areas, which provided over 340,000 medical consultations. We also launched an innovative emergency medicine development program at the Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti that trained more than 300 Haitian physicians and nurses in nearly every component of emergency care delivery.

When cholera broke out nine months later, International Medical Corps was one of the very first organizations to respond, and had medical staff on the ground in Artibonite—where the first cases developed—days before the outbreak was even confirmed to be cholera. Our teams aggressively rolled out a network of 10 cholera treatment centers and mobile medical units in Haiti’s most remote and affected areas, providing care to more than 39,700 cholera patients. At the height of the outbreak in the South Department, where 14% of cholera cases were resulting in death—much higher than the national average—International Medical Corps provided surge support and trained local staff in the area’s two largest treatment centers. Just one month later, the fatality rate fell to 2.5%, and two months later, it was less than 1%.

Because cholera was a new disease for the country, the majority of Haiti’s health workers had never seen it before. We therefore trained and mentored more than 1,200 doctors, nurses, and community health workers within the first year of the outbreak. These trained health workers helped staff our network of cholera treatment centers, and ultimately allowed us to turn over the network over to the national health system—ensuring that cholera prevention and treatment would be part of the country’s long-term healthcare infrastructure. In addition, in various parts of the country, we rehabilitated infrastructure to ensure access to safe water and sanitation, distributed more than 765,000 hygiene and sanitation materials, and educated 2 million Haitians on cholera prevention.

Since 2011, International Medical Corps has continued to focus on cholera preparedness and treatment as the disease persisted. We established prevention and treatment programs in vulnerable locations in Haiti, and, when Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 resulted in a spike of new cases, we responded with rehydration services, treatment centers, training and education. Following Hurricane Matthew, we supported a mass vaccination campaign that reached more than 735,000 people.

International Medical Corps’ other work in Haiti over the past seven years includes integrating mental health into primary health care services, rehabilitating hygiene infrastructure, screening and treating young children for malnutrition, and more. As highlights, since 2010 our teams have distributed more than 300,000 water purifying tablets to families; built over 600 latrines and showers; trained more than 630 doctors and nurses how to identify, treat, and refer mental health disorders; screened over 160,000 children for malnutrition; and provided medication, education, outreach and treatment to some 1.6 million people.

Overall, from October 2010 to October 2017, cholera infected an estimated 817,000 men, women and children, and killed 9,722. However, cholera may be on the wane today in Haiti thanks to the collective and dedicated efforts of International Medical Corps, other international and domestic organizations, the Ministry of Health, local medical staff, and the Haitian people themselves. From January through October 2017, there were 11,916 suspected cases of cholera and 118 deaths, compared to 35,203 cases and 369 deaths for the same period in 2016—a decrease of 66% and 68% respectively over 12 months.

As International Medical Corps responds today to the tragic cholera epidemic unfolding in Yemen—where one million people have been affected—we remind ourselves of what we and the global community have been able to accomplish in Haiti.

We sincerely thank the GlobalGiving community for their support of our work in Haiti over the past seven years. Your generosity helped save the lives of Haitians and build the capacity of the country’s health care system in the aftermath of natural disasters. Together we have been able to make a difference. 

Nurse Christine, a member of a mobile medical team
Nurse Christine, a member of a mobile medical team
Our staff treats a boy after the 2010 earthquake
Our staff treats a boy after the 2010 earthquake
Our nurse examines Witchina for the first time
Our nurse examines Witchina for the first time

The morning of Tuesday, August 8, Witchina sat up upon her bed, like many a morning for the young four-year-old in the rural commune of Limbé, in northern Haiti. Witchina’s day however, would be different. In a few hours, International Medical Corp’s mobile medical team would set out as part of a routine surveillance for cholera in Witchina’s hometown, the 8th Massabiel district of Limbé. Here, a local community member would tell them of a girl who had been experiencing diarrhea since late the previous evening. Next, they would arrive at a house to see a young girl as small as a 13-month-old baby sitting atop a bed with her arms resting calmly at her side. They would finally discover that this girl was Witchina, and she had cholera, was severely malnourished, and was in need of emergency medical assistance.

Upon this realization, International Medical Corps’ team rushed Witchina by car to a cholera treatment center, where she was immediately rehydrated to prevent her cholera from worsening—a step which on that day, may have saved her life. After recovering from cholera, International Medical Corps transferred Witchina to the nutritional recovery center of the Justinian University Hospital where the she spent five days in further rehabilitation for her malnutrition. After the five days, Witchina’s health had improved and her mother, while holding Witchina in her arms, thanked our team. Without them, “I would have lost my child,” she said.

To prevent the spread of cholera and save the lives of those like Witchina, International Medical Corps is reaching the communities in Artibonite and Nord in Haiti with roving mobile medical units to identify, transport, and treat individuals with cholera and other health concerns, such as malnutrition. Through these teams, International Medical is also providing surge support to 24 existing cholera treatment centers to meet the needs of communities with a high number of diarrhea alerts. Lastly, we are training local health facility staff in holistic cholera case management, revamping local cholera surveillance networks, and conducting awareness sessions on cholera and proper hygiene practices.

Today, Witchina is recovering and making strides towards a healthy weight. Still, even with the awareness of proper hygiene and common symptoms of disease, Witchina’s mother may not have been able to seek treatment for her daughter any sooner. The 27 year-old mother has three other children and is five months pregnant with another, struggling to feed all of them just one time day. Were International Medical Corps not able to reach her on that August 8th, she may not have been able to afford transportation to a health facility, which can be double or triple the rate for cholera patients.  International Medical Corps will continue to strive for a sustainable reduction in cholera by spreading awareness and treating cases in Haiti to prevent others from being trapped in the situation Witchina’s mother was in that day—having neither the knowledge nor the resources to care for her child’s emergency.

We thank the GlobalGiving family for their continued support of our cholera initiatives in Haiti as we work to provide health care and build resilience within vulnerable communities.

Discussing hygiene with community members in Nord
Discussing hygiene with community members in Nord
Treating a boy for cholera in Artibonite
Treating a boy for cholera in Artibonite
Sanatus with her brother, after treatment
Sanatus with her brother, after treatment

A community health worker volunteering with International Medical Corps was leading an outreach activity at a Mothers' Club for breastfeeding support in Gros-Cheval, near Fonds-Verrettes, when she heard about an 11-month-old girl weighing only 2.7kg (5.9lbs). When she told Franck, the program manager, about this child, his first reaction was, “This child cannot exist!!!” 

Amazingly, she did exist. Sanatus and her twin brother were orphaned soon after birth and were living in the custody of an aunt. Sanatus was found to be in a serious wasting condition and needed appropriate care, nourishment and follow-up. Franck made sure she was referred to our nearest nutrition stabilization unit. After 2 weeks of inpatient treatment, she had gained a kilo (2.2lbs) and was discharged to outpatient care. We made sure her aunt understood how to follow the treatment and agreed to visit our local mobile clinic every week for a checkup. 

Even before the devastating 2010 earthquake, Haiti suffered from one of the heaviest burdens of hunger and malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere. Today, an estimated 1.5 million Haitians face hunger because of poor harvests and rising food prices. The decline in production has led to households reducing the size of meal portions or reducing the number of meals. In many cases they have also sold their livestock or their land and homes just to survive. 

In Fond-Verrettes, located near the southern end of Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic, we are collaborating with the Ministry of Public and Population Health to identify and treat some 1,840 malnourished children under 5. Fonds-Verrettes has a population of about 50,000 with an emergency-level global acute malnutrition rate of 27.7%. The severe acute malnutrition of 12.6% is also well above emergency thresholds. 

We are also providing counseling and hands-on support for best practices in infant and young child feeding to about 1,800 pregnant and lactating women with children under 2, and involving fathers in positive nutritional behavior change. Finally, we are helping to build the capacity of local health care workers to treat and prevent malnutrition with training and supportive supervision. 

We thank the GlobalGiving community for your continued support as we provide lifesaving medical and support services to young, undernourished Haitian children and their mothers.

Sanatus at 2.7kg, before treatment
Sanatus at 2.7kg, before treatment
Franck leading a community outreach session
Franck leading a community outreach session
Luvienne recovers in the cholera treatment center
Luvienne recovers in the cholera treatment center

“When I first started to feel sick, it was only a stomach ache,” twenty-year-old Luvienne remembers. “Then I had diarrhea. People said I might have cholera.” Cholera is endemic in Haiti, and, if left untreated, can kill within hours. Luvienne knew she was in a dangerous condition and traveled to the nearest health facility, which transported her by ambulance to International Medical Corps’ cholera treatment center in Les Anglais, a town in southwest Haiti.

In October 2016, Les Anglais was directly in the path of Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall as a powerful category 4 storm, packing winds of 145 miles per hour, dumping as much as 40 inches of rain in some areas and causing a seven-to-ten foot storm surge. The resulting floods, along with damaged infrastructure, led to a deadly outbreak of cholera.

We partnered with the Haiti Ministry of Public Health and Population, along with other global and local organizations, to help prevent cholera with water and sanitation improvements as well as a one-dose cholera vaccination campaign that reached more than 735,000 adults and children over one year old. We also established or operated three cholera treatment centers to treat people with suspected cholera and created 13 oral rehydration points to fight early symptoms quickly in more remote locations. Throughout the cholera response, our teams promoted safe hygiene practices and supported household disinfection.

By the time Luvienne arrived at the cholera treatment center in Les Anglais, she was severely dehydrated, but just 24 hours later her symptoms began to subside. Within days, she and other critically ill patients had regained their health thanks to rehydration and treatment with antibiotics and were able to return to their homes.

We would like to thank the GlobalGiving community for continuing to support our work providing medical care in Haiti.

The cholera treatment center in Les Anglais, Haiti
The cholera treatment center in Les Anglais, Haiti
Christine is fighting cholera in Haiti
Christine is fighting cholera in Haiti

When the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, it was immediately followed by another disaster—a deadly outbreak of cholera. Christine was already an experienced nurse when she joined the International Medical Corps team. “I was especially shocked at the number of child victims,” she said. For Christine, it was a deeply personal cause—she lost her seven-year-old child in the earthquake, and she refused to watch more children perish from a preventable and treatable disease.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease and, if left untreated, can kill within a matter of hours. Following the 2010 earthquake, some 9,000 people died from cholera. Between 2015 and 2016 there was an increase in the number of suspected cholera cases, especially in the north, which has shown the highest vulnerability to cholera since the outbreak in 2010. When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October, massive flooding and widespread damage to infrastructure caused another outbreak across the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. Today, some 8,900 new cases of cholera are suspected across the country.

International Medical Corps has been working in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, responding to ongoing medical needs, including cholera treatment and prevention. In the Nord and Nord-Est departments in the north, our team of nurses and hygiene experts supports health facilities during cholera outbreaks and operates three mobile medical units equipped with essential cholera medicines, and sanitation and hygiene items, such as soap and toothpaste. We have also significantly contributed to the improvement of cholera surveillance systems by early reporting and tracking of data on suspected cases, as well as case management to ensure patients get the follow-up care they need. Our teams also visit the patient’s home, apply chlorine treatments and provide education on sanitary conditions.

Following Hurricane Matthew, our teams deployed seven mobile medical teams to provide primary care to the hardest hit areas of the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. We are also providing clean water and sanitation support so that shelters and health facilities can remain open. Our teams established oral rehydration points to save the lives of those who are suffering from aggressive cholera symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Finally, to prevent the further spread of disease, we are supporting vaccination implementation and promoting clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

After the cholera epidemic of 2010, Christine was exhausted, both physically and psychologically, and stepped away from her role as a first responder with International Medical Corps, though she continued to work in health care and trained other nurses. When Hurricane Matthew struck, she rejoined our response team, saying, “In particular, I like the way International Medical Corps works on the ground. Their teams are really dedicated and take special care of children and patients.” Since then, she has treated dozens of suspected cholera patients, from as young as 3 years old up to 84 years old. She added, “Cholera excludes no one, but it is the poor and the vulnerable who suffer the most.”

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community for your support as we continue to provide life-saving cholera prevention and treatment to the people of Haiti.

Families stand in line to receive care
Families stand in line to receive care
Christine treating a young child
Christine treating a young child

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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

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

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