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Archive for July, 2009

By Jennifer Browning

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Haiti early July. It was his first visit to the Caribbean country since being appointed UN Special Envoy to Haiti. View the above video that was originally posted on the UN Dispatch site.

Project Medishare’s Country Director Marie Chery attended a meeting led by Clinton with other NGO’s. Chery said she appreciated meeting with Clinton especially because it presented the opportunity to network with other organizations working in Haiti. Read more about that meeting here.

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By Jennifer Browning

While recent reports from the Associated Press explain how Haiti is finding ways to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS, there is still concern that the current economic crisis could hinder the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Media Global’s Amy Lieberman reported that nations in East and Southern Africa are beginning to feel the impact of fallen export trade markets and donor lending systems.

“The Global Economic Crisis and HIV Prevention and Treatment Programmes: Vulnerability and Impact,” a report from UNAIDS, , the United Nations program addressing the disease, and the World Bank reports 22 of the 71 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and the Asia-Pacific expect to witness a disruption of HIV prevention and treatment programs over the next year.

While there has been progress regarding the provisions of drugs and HIV-related deaths are decreasing, the current economic crisis could slow down this progress according to René Bonnel, a World Bank specialist on HIV/AIDS and the economy.

The official rate of infection in Haiti today is 2.2 percent among people ages 15 to 49, according to UNAIDS. While this is still far higher than in the developed world, it’s lower than the Bahamas, Guyana and Suriname, and much lower than sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate averages about 5 percent. That number increases to 24 percent in Botswana and 33 percent in Swaziland.

In December, Project Medishare received a grant through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and are currently continuing programs in the central plateau in regards to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education.

Read the full MediaGlobal article here.

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By Jocelyn Brown and Kelly O’Connor

As interns from the Beyond Traditional Borders Initiative at Rice University, we demonstrated the capabilities of the Diagnostic Lab-in-a-Backpack to the Project Medishare team. The mission of the Beyond Traditional Borders Initiative is to foster the creation of globally appropriate health technologies that address the pressing health needs of the developing world.

Rice University Beyond Traditional Border interns Jocelyn Brown and Kelly O’Connor demonstrate the functionality of the diagnostic lab in a backpack to Dr. Sonia Sachs. Dr. Sachs joined her husband Jeffrey Sachs and a delegation from the United Nations Development Programme during a visit to Thomonde and the Millennium Village Project site in Marmont. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Rice University Beyond Traditional Border interns Jocelyn Brown and Kelly O’Connor demonstrate the functionality of the diagnostic lab in a backpack to Dr. Sonia Sachs. Dr. Sachs joined her husband Jeffrey Sachs and a delegation from the United Nations Development Programme during a visit to Thomonde and Marmont. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

The backpack contains necessary equipment, such as a microscope, centrifuge, and three charging options: a lithium ion battery, a solar panel, and an AC power adapter, for physicians to provide medical examinations and make prompt, accurate diagnoses in remote locations. The prototype has been in development for three years and is being continuously improved upon by a team of Rice University bioengineering students and faculty.

We instructed the Project Medishare team on how to use the various components of the backpack to their full potential. The team of physicians, nurses, and technicians showed great interest in incorporating this new technology into their medical work throughout the Central Plateau. One physician explained how the backpack would enable him to diagnose patients in isolated areas in a more efficient manner.

During the Marmont Integrated Community Development Program site visit with the United Nations and the Earth Institute, we had the opportunity to demonstrate the Diagnostic Lab-in-a-Backpack to conference attendees. Dr. Sonia Sachs and Project Medishare co-founder Dr. Arthur Fournier, while impressed with the current design, suggested the inclusion of additional components to increase the backpack’s capabilities.

Our program is honored to provide this technology to Project Medishare. It is our hope that Project Medishare will provide Beyond Traditional Borders with valuable feedback in order to further improve the design. We look forward to future collaboration with Project Medishare.

*Jocelyn and Kelly worked in Haiti for six weeks this summer. They served as interns for three weeks with Project Medishare in Thomonde. You can read more about their internship experiences at the Beyond Traditional Boarders blog site at http://www.owlsbeyondborders.rice.edu/.

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Photo by Nick Vitone.

Photo by Nick Vitone.

By Nick Vitone

I recently traveled to Haiti to photograph a team of medical students and professionals from Emory University who were working on partnership with Project Medishare.  The trip was designed to offer surgeries to patients in the central plateau, who might not otherwise be able to improve their health.

For me, the first trip to Haiti is like the first trip to the moon; I couldn’t begin to form any worthwhile expectations.  What I read in the news or in books helped, but was limited.

Having been there and back, I now feel there are two different Haiti’s.  There is the popularized Haiti that grabs attention in the headlines- for the poverty, the violence, natural disasters, politics, the relief efforts and the list goes on.  Truth be told, the level of poverty is quite shocking, and everywhere you travel is saturated with reminders of it.  Perhaps that is the greatest contrast to most other places I have visited–that there is no escape from the poverty.  The poverty, violence, etc. are the “facts and figures” of Haiti, and as such they are informative, but do little to speak of the actual Haitians.

Another Haiti exists as well, this one is much more personable and warm, even inviting.  So many of the patients we worked with were very open and generous with us, but what really surprised me was the extent to which their families were involved.  Every single patient that we saw had family that traveled to be there.  There were no hotels nearby, no accommodations for them.  Often times they slept on the floor next to their loved one, or at the foot of the bed.
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By Jennifer Browning

Two weeks ago after Canada relaxed its Haiti travel advisory, the United States also updated the advisory stating that the overall security condition in Haiti has improved.

Canadians are now advised to exercise caution regarding travel to Haiti. The same level of precaution applies to the neighboring Dominican Republic.

The U.S. State Department still warns Americans about risks related to traveling to the Caribbean country stating that the potential for violence motivated by political concerns remains high. The State Department also reported  concerns about hurricanes and other devastating storms.

United Kingdom maintains higher alerts for Haiti.

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Lead agronomist Florence Sergile describes the potential and the challenges of the land around Marmont with Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs as they look upon the panoramic view from Morne Sourit. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Lead agronomist Florence Sergile describes the potential and the challenges of the land around Marmont with Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs as they look upon the panoramic view from Morne Sourit. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

By Jennifer Browning

Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs and Pedro Sanchez, Director of Tropical Agriculture at the Earth Institute, joined The Green Family Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) delegation during a visit to Marmont. The visit also included a look at Project Medishare’s growing community health program along with the recently integrated agriculture program between Thomonde and Marmont.

After a short coffee break at Project Medishare’s Headquarters in Thomonde, visitors walked to view the demonstration farm as well as the Akamil Plant which is due for completion in December.

The tour continued with a journey half way up Morne Sourit to get a panoramic perspective of Marmont. Visitors were able to gain a birds-eye view of Marmont and the surrounding areas. Here, Project Medishare’s lead agronomist from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Florence Sergile described the potential and challenges the environment represented. Sergile pointed out that while evident deforestation was present up on the mountain overlooking Marmont, that farmers and other villagers had protected the trees around Marmont as well as Thomonde.

Earth Institute's Director of Tropical Agriculture, Pedro Sanchez speaks with farmers in Cour Cadichon. Local farmers spoke with Sanchez about how they wanted to improve their farming practices to increase their profits from their crops. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Earth Institute's Director of Tropical Agriculture, Pedro Sanchez, speaks with farmers in Cour Cadichon. Local farmers spoke with Sanchez about how they wanted to improve their farming practices to increase their profits from their crops. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Before visiting the clinic and maternal health center in Marmont, the convoy climbed down Morne Sourit, to visit a potential natural irrigation system in Cour Cadichon. Local farmers gathered to speak to Sanchez and Sachs about the importance of their land and how they wished to improve their farming practices.

For their final stop before returning to Thomonde, the group toured Project Medishare’s clinic and the construction site of the Maternal Health Center in Marmont. After lunch back at Project Medishare’s headquarters, Sachs and Sanchez spoke to Project Medishare staff and the delegation expressing positive feedback regarding the programs already established by Project Medishare.

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Beyond Traditional Border interns Jocelyn Brown and Kelly O’Connor demonstrate the Diagnostic Lab-in-a-Backpack to physicians, nurses, and technicians at the Project Medishare headquarters in Thomonde. Rice University’s Beyond Traditional Borders Initiative works to foster the creation of globally appropriate health technologies that address the pressing health needs of the developing world. Photo by Jennifer Browning.
Beyond Traditional Border interns Jocelyn Brown and Kelly O’Connor demonstrate the Diagnostic Lab-in-a-Backpack to physicians, nurses, and technicians at the Project Medishare headquarters in Thomonde. Rice University’s Beyond Traditional Borders Initiative works to foster the creation of globally appropriate health technologies that address the pressing health needs of the developing world. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

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