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07.13.2023

Photos: Restoring Hope to Haiti’s Health Systems

Haiti’s growing humanitarian crisis has pushed the island’s health systems to the brink. See how Project HOPE is working inside hospitals and communities to strengthen access to the essential care Haitians need.

Haiti is facing a compounding health crisis. With many of the island’s communities still struggling to recover from a devastating 2021 earthquake — and with recent earthquakes, flooding, and another hurricane season looming — urgent health needs are on the rise inside communities already reeling from gang violence, the resurgence of cholera, political and economic turmoil, and life-threatening food insecurity.

Dangerous shortages of medicines and health workers have left Haiti’s health systems unequipped to meet the need. A recent Project HOPE health assessment in southern Haiti revealed the alarming health needs in the island’s Grand Sud region: over half the people our team talked to said they have to travel more than an hour on foot or by Taptap (open truck) to access a health facility. Forty-six percent of pregnant women do not give birth at a health facility, often relying on untrained family members and neighbors for support.

In early 2023, Project HOPE began implementing a multi-sectoral response to Haiti’s complex humanitarian crisis. Our response focuses on health, protection, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) needs to strengthen the island’s health systems in the Sud, Grand’Anse, and Nippes departments.

wide shot of hospital in Haiti
Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti. Project HOPE is providing medical support to help the hospital treat cholera patients as well as meet an urgent rise in primary health care needs for the community. ALL PHOTOS: Nadia Todres for Project HOPE, 2023.
wide shot of hospital beds with patients in Haiti.
A dangerous lack of medicines and staff has pushed many of Haiti’s primary health centers to the brink, including at Immaculate Conception Hospital. Project HOPE is providing surge medical staff, medicines, health worker trainings, maintenance, repairs, water trucking, mental health support, and gender-based violence case management to support the nation’s health system.
a nurse attending to a patient in a hospital in Haiti.
This year’s cholera outbreak further strained health facilities still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in 2021. As part of Project HOPE’s response, our team in Haiti has provided three doctors, two nurses, a pharmacist, four cleaners, and 180 Community Health Agents to help meet the rise in need.

“In hurricane season, vigilance is essential,” says Dr. Mozart Wildonja, Project HOPE’s medical director in Haiti.

The risk of waterborne illness is always high in Haiti, but especially now: many communities have no water system, Dr. Wildonja says. Gutters are blocked and water sources are contaminated. Heavy rains and standing water threaten the spread of dangerous diseases, especially in communities where hygiene items are hard to procure. It isn’t just the threat of hurricanes that looms: In early June, intense rainstorms caused severe flooding across the island, killing dozens of people.

Project HOPE’s work in Haiti includes the distribution of hygiene kits in local communities to help families protect themselves from illness. On a warm afternoon inside a church in Marfranc, a simple bucket is all it takes to slow the spread of disease.

back of man loading hygiene kits into truck.
Project HOPE staff load hygiene kits for distribution in Marfranc, Haiti.
group of people around a table speaking.
Project HOPE staff, including President and CEO Rabih Torbay, organize a hygiene kit distribution. The kits are an important tool to slow the spread of waterborne disease in communities that have difficulty accessing clean water.
two women standing next to each other and holding babies.
Cassandra, 26, at the hygiene kit distribution with her youngest of four children. The distributions also include training sessions on water hygiene, how to reduce the risk of cholera, and the importance of hand washing.
a smiling woman in a straw hat holding a hygiene kit.
Project HOPE has distributed hygiene kits in Nippes, Grande’Anse, and Sud, Haiti. The kits are a simple way to help local community members protect their families from illness, including the recent resurgence of cholera across the island.
supplies displayed that go inside a hygiene kit.
What’s in a hygiene kit? Kits contain three bars of soap for clothes washing, body soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, menstrual pads, aqua tablets, and a faucet so the bucket can be used for hand washing.
a line of people walking away with hygiene kits on their heads.
Community members leave a Project HOPE hygiene kit distribution in Marfranc.

Haiti was declared cholera-free in February 2022 — an important milestone for a nation that had seen nearly 10,000 deaths since the disease was introduced in 2010. But just a few months later, cholera was back: From October 2022 to February 2023, Haiti experienced more than 33,000 suspected cholera cases and hundreds of deaths.

Cholera treatment centers (CTC) are an important frontline resource for hospitals facing a rise in cholera patients. At Saint Antoine Hospital, which Project HOPE supports in Jérémie, the cholera treatment center operates 24 hours a day. But it’s not just cholera’s resurgence that threatens to strain the hospital’s resources. The threat of disaster is never out of sight: On June 6, a 4.9-magnitude earthquake left four dead and more than 51 injured in Jérémie. Health facilities in the area maintained continued operations but badly needed pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

“All the hospital’s departments are in great demand,” says Dr. Wildonja. “In the event of a major crisis, the hospital’s capacity will be overwhelmed.”

hallway of a hospital
Saint Antoine Hospital was one of the first hospitals in Haiti to set up a cholera treatment center at the start of the country’s cholera outbreak in September 2022. The center operates 24 hours a day and saw 13 cholera cases in May 2023.
wide shot of hospital beds in Haiti
In addition to cholera, there is a very high level of need at Saint Antoine. Due to the rise in demand, Project HOPE’s support has expanded from cholera into general medical support for the hospital.
woman looking at man
Regine Necessaire, Project HOPE’s Team Lead in Jérémie.
woman checking in on patient in hospital in Haiti
Project HOPE is supporting Saint Antoine Hospital by providing supplies, essential medications, and treatment for cholera patients, but we are also expanding to primary health care. Following an earthquake in early June 2023, Project HOPE also deployed surge medical staff and donated kits that included medicines and medical consumables.

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