Archive for March, 2009

By Jennifer Browning

Last week, the Senate Budget Committee cut President Obama’s FY10 International Affairs Budget request by $4 billion. The International Affairs budget funds global AIDS programs and humanitarian aid to developing countries like Haiti, as well as critical development and diplomatic initiatives that will save live and improve America’s relations with the rest of the world.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) are introducing an amendment to return the International Affairs budget to the level requested by President Obama. Call your Senator today to prevent drastic cuts in the International Affairs Budget, and urge them to support this amendment and oppose any other cuts that would seriously jeopardize vital global programs in health and development. Funding for the International Affairs Budget has made a critical difference in the lives of families in impoverished nations around the world, and it is this funding which allows for implementing programs that save millions.

Take Action NOW! Encourage your senator to support the Kerry-Lugar amendment, which would restore the $4 billion cut to the FY10 International Affairs Budget.We must do all we can to gain support for the Kerry-Lugar amendment. It is critically important that you contact your Senators NOW! Call the Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator’s office and urge them to:

  • Co-sponsor the Kerry-Lugar Amendment

  • Oppose any further cutting amendments

  • and Speak out in support of the Kerry-Lugar Amendment and the importance of the International Affairs budget

Senators need to know they have popular support for the International Affairs Budget. Anything less than the request level of $53.8 billion will greatly hamper President Obama’s efforts to implement programs essenial for millions of children and vulnerable families around the world.

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By Tina Voltang

THOMONDE, Haiti—This morning, I felt a poke at my shoulder, and it was Mo telling me to hurry up so that we can squeeze in a walk around town before breakfast. We were going to tour the grounds of the Akamil facility.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Miami, my peers and I had spent close to two years partnering with the Rotary clubs of South Florida to raise funds for the equipment to produce Akamil. Prior to this walk, my visions of the facility were comprised merely of pictures of a grassy plot of land—barren—with two of the members of our campaign holding up a home-made Rotaract of UM banner. I could hardly believe my eyes as we approached the facilities. There were two huge buildings on the land. One would be the huge factory that would be the production factory for Akamil, and the other would be a new guest house for future visitors. Walking into the Akamil plant this early in the morning, I could almost hear the echo of my footsteps, yet buzzing through my head were visions of an organized pandemonium. I was imagining the day that we’d see the people of Thomonde manufacturing tons of Akamil a day, women packaging and selling Akamil in the market, farmers turning over cash crops, and maybe even malnutrition becoming a rarity in Thomonde.

Behind the facilities contained about a hundred planters filled with crops such as tomatoes, onions, and beats as well as an agricultural staff that was dedicated to figuring a way to educate the population about how to best use the soil and distribute seeds. One of their goals was to help the people of Thomonde to integrate subsistence farming into their lives to improve their nutrition. I felt a great sense of promise and excitement as I stood in the vastness of the Akamil facility, and at the same time a huge urgency for it to be filled with the people of Thomonde and their amazing dedication and desire to better their future and surroundings.

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By Melissa Knight

THOMONDE, Haiti–Tonight, as I sat listening to the infamous Jerome play songs about Haitian history, poverty, and the ongoing struggle to survive, he emphasized how much he appreciated all that Project Medishare has done for the Central Plateau and how much the organization has changed the population’s way of life. To me, before actually arriving in Haiti, this trip just represented a great experience for me to learn more about helping the underserved in an international setting. I did not realize that Project Medishare was actually trying to affect the infrastructure of Haiti and fundamentally change the way in approaches health care and economics.

Today, we traveled around the Central Plateau and saw all of the Project Medishare projects. First, we visited the Integrated Community Health Program, a massive project that is bringing health care services, education and economic development to the town of Marmont and surrounding areas. We visited Centre de Sante de Marmont, the health clinic that serves the area, and the women’s health clinic that is currently under construction. We also visited the L’Ecole National in Marmont, which is one of the few nationally funded schools in the Central Plateau. While learning about the school, our group quickly drew a crowd of curious students. This was our first real interaction with Haitians not associated with Project Medishare, and I think that the one thing that struck me the most about Haitians is that there is an unexpected joy present. The simplest tasks for these people require a huge amount of effort and daily life is an enormous struggle, yet they have this happiness that is really quite indescribable and remarkable. Finally we went to Centre de Sante de Thomonde, an impressive hospital that, to my great surprise, has an X-ray machine.

As our day ended by the sweet songs of Jerome, my realization about the extent to which Project Medishare affects the community of Thomonde and Haiti as a country really came full circle. I am truly proud to be a part of this organization and cannot wait to get started on the medical part of our trip.

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By Jennifer Browning

Dr. Barth Green just reported in to let us know the University of Miami students are working hard with Project Medishare’s mobile clinic team. He sent us the above photo from his Blackberry as he stands with the Project Medishare/UM Global Institute team who were visiting the Maternal Health Center site this morning.The construction of the Maternal Health Center in Marmont which broke ground at the end of January was funded 100 percent by Greig Family and is currently under construction.

Currently there is only one hospital with an obstetrician available to serve five towns in the upper Central Plateau: Hinche, Thomonde, Maissade, Thomassique, Cerca LaSource, and Cerca Carvajal. While the clinic in Marmont does offer maternal services such as family planning along with prenatal and postnatal visits, the clinic does not have the facilities for deliveries. All high risk pregnancies are referred to the hospital in Hinche or Thomonde where there is a small delivery room with a trained midwife.

Upon its completion, the new Maternal Health Center will be open full time with trained staff available and living in the connecting residence. The Maternal Health Center in Marmont will also focus on providing a full package of women’s health services including reproductive health education, family planning, along with HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.

The UM medical students will spend the week in Haiti working with the mobile clinic team throughout Haiti’s central plateau. Keep checking Project Medishare’s blog to find updates regarding their trip.

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By Jennifer Browning

During his previous trip to Haiti with former President Bill Clinton, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the students from the Haitian Education Leadership Program (HELP) that he saw them as “seeds of hope” for their country. In his article in the opinion section of the New York Times today, Ban expresses how he has more than just hope for the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Ban agreed with Haitian President René Preval who stated that Haiti was at a turning point. Ban is hoping that this pivotal moment in Haiti’s future will send it toward the light to embrace hope and opportunity.

Ban speaks about the Hope II Act passed last year by Congress which offers Haiti duty-free, quota-free access to U.S. markets for the next nine years. Ban says Hope II will offer Haiti the chance to move beyond aid to genuine economic development.

The U.N. Secretary General asks for donors to reach out and invest in Haiti by reaching beyond traditional humanitarian aid so that countries like Haiti can benefit from sustainability programs like that of the gifted school in Port-au-Prince.

From the start Project Medishare has made sure their health care program in Haiti’s central plateau focuses on sustainability instead of just offering traditional aid. One way they do this is through their health and agricultural programs, Project Medishare is the largest employer in the central plateau allowing Haitians the opportunity to help their fellow Haitians and thus fostering a stronger sense of community. By giving those within the community a chance to be a part of the Community Health Program or the Growing Connections Agricultural Project, the community grows stronger and begins to prosper.

Read all of Ban Ki-Moon’s article “Haiti’s Big Chance” in the New York Times here or read Neil MacFarquhar’s article Haiti’s Woes are Top Test for Aid Effort.

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Project Medishare Program Coordinator Gabriele Denis with neurosurgical patient. Photo by Daniel Cima.

Project Medishare Program Coordinator Gabriele Denis with neurosurgical patient in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Daniel Cima.

By Jennifer Browning
The Project Medishare neurosurgery team returned to Haiti this past Saturday for a neurological assessment at La Paix Hospital in Port-au-Prince. The team assessed 67 cases of children with various neurological problems such as hydrocephalus, micro-cephalic, brain tumors and spinal bifida. The team saw 57 new cases. The doctors had 35 cases that would benefit from surgery out of the 57; unfortunately the team can only select 25 cases when they return to perform surgeries in the summer.

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By Jennifer Browning

Recently a group of young Haitian professionals in Port-au-Prince have joined together to form the “Support Group of Project Medishare in Haiti.” The organization has dedicated themselves in assisting Project Medishare in the funding of the Akamil Production Facility in Thomonde which is scheduled for completion in June.

The Akamil Production Facility will be one part of a three-part facility including a medical complex and training center. The Akamil facility will manufacture and distribute AK-1000, often referred to as Akamil, a mix of locally grown products such as cereals (rice, corn, millet, wheat) and vegetables all blended into powder. Akamil is well-known and accepted in Haiti as an energetic and constructive food with satisfying nutritional value that fills the deficits currently observed among children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and TB/HIV patients.

This is the support group’s first focus and they have been extremely successful. So far the group has raised over $100,000 in funds and in kind materials for the facility in Thomonde. Project Medishare and the people of Thomonde and Marmont are extremely grateful for this new partnership and look forward to collaborating with the Support Group of Project Medishare on many new initiatives and projects to benefit Haiti. A special thanks to the following Support Group members: Pasha Vorbe, Angele Vorbe, Marie-Marguerite Mevs, Marissa Merove-Pierre, Mireille Merove-Pierre, Michelle Frisch, Alessandra Vorbe, Christopher Handal, Stanley Handal, Sylvie Acra, Sabrina and Reynold Deeb, Steeve Handal, Philippe Roy, Jalal and Jony Farah, Marie Chery, and Yael Bigio.

The group has created a page on Facebook where you can keep updated on their progress and fundraising projects.

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By Jennifer Browning

With today marking World Water Day, Project Medishare has taken on the commitment to repairing a broken water cistern in Marmont where currently the new maternity ward is also under construction.

Clean water plays an important role in not only preventing illness, but also plays a large part in decreasing infant mortality.

Safe drinking water is a luxury that 1.1 billion people in this world do not have. Two in every five people on the planet still have no access to a proper toilet. Children especially pay the price when it comes to the catastrophic health consequences caused by unsafe drinking water. About 1.7 million children under age five (5) died last year from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water and sanitation in developing countries. Millions more were put at significant risk of exposure to water-borne infections such as cholera, typhoid fever, and dysentery.

Project Medishare is dedicated to helping the people of Marmont have safe drinking water but funding is still needed to complete the necessary repairs to the water cistern there. Please click here to donate to CLEAN WATER IN MARMONT.

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By Maureen Collins, MPH

Happy St. Josef’s Day! Today we were able to tune down what our typical day has looked like thus far. The town celebrated its 80th anniversary of St. Josef, the main church here in Thomonde. The group split up and either got dressed up to attend mass at St. Josef — or to stay at the Project Medishare compound and take a breather from activities. Those who went to mass said that it was packed with enthusiastic people from Thomonde. There was standing room only and very little room to breathe, but a great experience nonetheless! The laggards (myself included) stayed here and took the extra hours given to us to take a nap, re-hydrate, do homework, or read. After yesterday’s rainfall, one would think that our night’s sleep would have been restful….but thanks to the commencement ceremony last night for the holiday, many of us didn’t get to sleep until 2 a.m., resting our eyes while listening to boisterous Haitian music from the town centre. At one point in time, my roommate, Camille, said she heard two DJs battling out on the microphone.

Many of us went into town to look at and purchase crafts from some of the local artists. The scenes depicted ranged from neutral blue tones along the waterfront – to bright and tropical colors of women gathering together to dance. The prices that were paid for the artwork also ranged quite widely! Hopefully if you’re a relative of someone on the trip and reading this, you’ll benefit from the fruits of our labor today. After gathering back at the Project Medishare homestead, we got into three SUVs to accompany one of two community supervisors who go out and do home visits to families in the outskirts of Marmont, a town located next to Thomonde.

Again we split into two different groups, but it sounds like both experienced the same amount of sadness and happiness with their encounters. The homes that my group saw were skeletal and most sat on a family compound which housed one large nuclear family. For the most part, the older members of the family were left taking care of the youngest children, and many grandparents played babysitter to many of the local children. We visited over a dozen homes, some by foot and some by car, shadowing the community health supervisor as he made sure that each family’s children had their vaccinations and annual vitamin supplements. One man we visited was sitting on a chair reading the Bible, and took off his glasses and exclaimed “God Bless you!” and threw his hands up and around us. His children, like many of the other children here, swarmed around our group, first shy and then curious. Some of us took note of one family’s water sanitation in that the two older children who were looking after their younger family members were letting birds play in their main source of drinking water. I told the group that I had a new hypothesis of the origin for the Avian Bird Flu. It started to rain again and the drivers suggested we leave immediately as to avoid running into mudslides. We agreed,  and piled back into the cars to leave the families. On our way back, we were able to stop at the Project Medishare Clinic of Marmont and Project Medishare of Thomonde to look at their facilities. We were impressed by how clean and organized each of the clinics were. At Project Medishare in Thomonde, we were able to stop in and visit our 20-year old patient from yesterday who we rushed to the hospital when we realized the condition of her congenital heart failure. It was amazing to see that she had lost almost 15 pounds of fluid from her legs and that her three month old baby was being cared for already by the staff at Project Medishare in Thomonde. Although the outlook for her condition is teetering on death or life, she was pleased to see that we were thinking of her, and we said our goodbyes with big smiles and wishes for her future. It’s time to join the rest of the group to play cards and enjoy a beer as we toast to Donnois’ birthday. Good night!

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By Esther Molnar

Today was probably one of the most difficult days in terms of the poverty and lack of medical care that we saw. We set up clinic in a remote village at the base of the mountains. This by far was one of the most beautiful locations we have been to this week. However, despite the beauty of the scenery this was also one of the most impoverished areas we have been to.

It was my first day working with adults and I was surprised with the number of older adults whose main complaint was hunger and not having enough food to eat. One woman kept on complaining of stomach pains and diarrhea on days that she didn’t eat. Another woman came up to Dr. Summer after clinic and asked for food.

We came to the village to practice medicine, but the one thing that the villagers needed the most was food. I was shocked that these old woman who asked for food didn’t have family members that would take care of them, that their children couldn’t afford to feed them and the kids. I asked the translator how the elderly were treated and she said they were treated with respect, however it seems that in this setting the elderly wasting away was just a way of life.

The people also did not seek care until they really needed it. We had an emergency case of a young 20-year-old woman who had given birth three months ago, but currently was suffering from congestive heart failure. We had her lie down in the neighboring shack on a comfortable bed and wait for us to finish clinic so we could transport her to the hospital. Here was a woman two years younger than myself who would have probably never made it to the hospital if we didn’t have cars to transport her.

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