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A Dose of Health Care for Haiti’s Poor

Suzanne B. Robotti
Suzanne B. Robotti Executive Director

In southeast Haiti, the poorest country in the Northern Hemisphere, is a region bounded by mountains on one side and the Caribbean on the other. The ocean blues demand naming: aqua, baby, teal, sky, royal, cobalt, ink, cerulean, cyan, periwinkle.

The irony is that the 50,000 people who live scattered along this slice of beauty can barely exist. Their farms are wiped out every few years by hurricanes in Haiti. There are no factories and almost no tourism. These people live 3 or more hours by car to the nearest health clinic. And most of them don’t have cars. They either walk or ride a donkey. This is Cotes-de-Fer, land of visual wealth and subsistence living.

Last week I attended the opening of a hospital and dental clinic to serve these isolated people. The not-for-profit Catholic Medical Mission Board opened the Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Center for Health and they cared for the first patient even before the opening. The day before the ribbon-cutting, a woman giving birth to her third child experienced a vaginal tear. She, the newborn and the father traveled by motorbike to have her bleeding attended to in order to avoid possible infection, scarring and long-term pain. The doctors checked the newborn’s vitals and were happy to declare a healthy baby.

The Haiti hospital is a partnership between several private foundations, individual donations and the Mercy Health System. Several pharmaceutical companies donated supplies and medicines. The hospital will be staffed by local people and supplemented with volunteer medical personnel from the US.

While the headlines remain full of unanswered questions about Haiti healthcare system, it’s comforting to know that good not-for-profits are still taking care of those without resources.

CMMB has multiple programs in 5 countries serving primarily women’s and children’s health. Each program is tailored to the individual cultural expectations and health needs of the local people. Crossing all borders and programs is their donated meds program. CMMB has developed relationships with top brand and generic pharmaceutical manufacturers who last year donated drugs and equipment to locally-run health clinics in 27 countries.

Some of the companies create drugs just to donate, as did Teligent (maker of generic dermatologic meds) donating all meds made on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year. Others alert CMMB when they have too much stock or their stock is to expire in 12 months or so. CMMB matches the offered drugs to clinics that need that medicine and can use it before expiration. Last year, CMMB was able to send $359 million worth of donated medicines and medical equipment to 27 countries in the developing world.

While the headlines remain full of unanswered questions about our Haiti healthcare system, it’s comforting to know that good not-for-profits are still taking care of those without resources.

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