A thank you from Partners in Health and Update on how Mobile clinics reach poorest of the poor
Less than a week ago, I reluctantly boarded a plane on the tarmac of the crippled Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to return to Boston.
The next morning, a colleague welcomed me back to the Partners In Health office with a question: "What adjectives would you use to describe your experience?" I came up with two: heartbreaking and inspiring.
"Heartbreaking" I had expected, even before I had boarded the plane to Port-au-Prince.
"Inspiring" was more of a surprise. But inspired is what I felt upon seeing our Haitian partner organization Zanmi Lasante spring into action, doing what they do best—what they've been doing for over 25 years—working in partnership with the residents of destitute communities to provide quality health care and essential social services.
A month after the earthquake, Haiti is now threatened by another devastating public health disaster—epidemics of infectious diseases and untreated chronic illnesses in squatter communities where tens of thousands of people are crowded together with no sanitation facilities and little access to clean water and food.
Early one morning under an already scorching sun, a team of about 50 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and lab technicians drove to an open field adjacent to one of these informal settlements—a patchwork shelters pieced together from tattered sheets of cloth, cardboard, and scraps of wood, with an estimated population of 40,000.
Within 45 minutes, they had erected a large tent, filled most of it with tables and chairs for 20 consulting stations, created and stocked a small pharmacy and lab, and established an orderly system for checking patients in and sending them to the next available doctor. Over the next six hours, they saw and treated more than 500 patients—children with coughs and diarrhea, adults with wounds and fevers, an elderly woman with diabetes who went into shock and was rushed to a hospital.
The compassion, skill, and dedication Zanmi Lasante exhibited was truly awe-inspiring. Especially when you consider that they are operating similar clinics regularly at four settlements around Port-au-Prince, and supporting surgical teams at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince. All this is being done in addition to providing comprehensive health care at 12 facilities outside the city that were already serving a population of over 1 million people before the arrival of thousands of earthquake victims fleeing Port-au-Prince.
I cannot imagine feeling more humbled, more proud, or more privileged than I am to be able to contribute to the work of Zanmi Lasante. I hope that all of you who have supported Partners In Health and Zanmi Lasante at this critical time feel the same way.
With profound thanks,
Director of Communications
Partners In Health