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Mother’s Day 2011 is almost here! This is a very special Mother’s Day for us at Project Medishare as we open our first maternal health center in Marmont in the Central Plateau of Haiti. With your help, this year we would like to pay tribute to the expectant mothers that we are going to serve in the Central Plateau. Mother’s Day is a great occasion for you to honor and thank the woman who gave you life, continues to give you love and looks after you in any way that she can. You can do your part to help expectant mothers in the Central Plateau by sponsoring one woman for just $25 dollars. This small donation will go a long way by providing pre-natal and post-natal care for the mother and infant.

Expectant mothers in Haiti's Central Plateau. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

In Haiti, and particularly in the Central Plateau, the high rate of maternal mortality remains a challenge. Haiti has the top maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere and 80% of women in Haiti deliver their newborns at home without any skilled caregivers. One out of every 37 female deaths in Haiti is linked to high-risk pregnancy. Project Medishare has been working tirelessly toward decreasing these statistics.

Construction of our new maternal health center in Marmont is complete and the staff has been hired. Thanks to the Greig Family, who generously financed the construction, expectant Mothers in the Central Plateau will now have access to lifesaving health services. The center will offer access to quality child delivery services free of charge including comprehensive pre-natal and post-natal care. We expect that the center will deliver between 900-1,200 babies per year and care for thousands more.

Project Medishare internist, Dr. Gerarde Mondesir said, “It is essential for women in Marmont to have a center in their community where they can go to give birth.” She hopes that by having a maternal health center nearby, fewer women give birth at home, thereby decreasing the maternal mortality rate in the community. The new maternal health center is equipped with a full laboratory, incubators, and examination and observation rooms thanks to a generous equipment donation provided by our partner organization, MedShare. With your donation, we will be able to continue to treat thousands of women, maintain the maternal health center and decrease preventable deaths of mothers during childbirth.

What better way to honor a special mother in your life than by donating towards the improved health of a future mother in Haiti? This Mother’s Day we ask that you help us honor the women we serve in the Central Plateau by making a donation of $25. For each gift of $25, we will be able to serve one more mother with pre and post-natal education and care this year.  Please help us reach our goal of 1,200 gifts to ensure that we are able to care for each and every one of the mothers who so desperately need it. You can donate directly by clicking here!

The maternal health center is scheduled to open the first week of May, just in time for many Haitian mothers’ first Mother’s Day. Thank you for helping make this Mother’s Day special for expectant mothers in the Central Plateau of Haiti!

A healthy newborn baby at a Project Medishare facility. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

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Dr. Gerarde Mondesir conducts a prenatal exam for 24-year-old Jesula Alexander at the clinic in Marmont. Upon opening, the maternal health center will provide women in the Central Plateau a full package of women’s health services including reproductive health education, family planning, along with HIV/AIDS counseling and testing. "I am so happy about the maternal health center opening," Alexander said. "I hope it is ready by the time I have my baby so that I don’t have to travel far to have my baby and receive healthcare. I can have my baby here." Photo by Jennifer Browning.

By Jennifer Browning

Jean Vasula, 17, sits with her 2-month-old son Maté at the clinic in Marmont waiting to see the doctor. Here doctors see everything from pediatrics to adult medicine and for now, even provides family planning as well as prenatal and postnatal exams.

Thanks to the Greig Family, who completely funded the construction of the Maternal Health Center, and MedShare who donated all of the medical equipment, women in the Central Plateau are closer to having access to a full package of women’s health services including reproductive health education, family planning, along with HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.

A grant provided by Ralph Lauren is assisting with upstart costs such as staff salaries. Currently, Project Medishare is recruiting and interviewing midwives, nurses and other personnel for the center.

Vasula said while she was pregnant with Maté, she visited the Marmont clinic each month for her prenatal care. She said she is excited that there will be a clinic dedicated to women.

“The new maternal health clinic will be so good for [women in the community],” Vasula said. “Right now, here in Marmont we have to depend on the hospital in Thomonde. If we need a test, we have to go to Thomonde; or if we have any complications we have to go to Thomonde or maybe even further in Hinche. I am glad the maternal center is opening here because it will serve the whole community and all women here will have access.”

In Haiti, and particularly in the Central Plateau, the high rate of maternal mortality remains a challenge. Haiti’s statistics regarding maternal mortality are among the highest in the Caribbean: 1 out of every 37 female deaths is linked to a high-risk pregnancy.

Haiti’s poor suffers by far the highest maternal mortality ratio in the Western Hemisphere. According to UNICEF, out of 100,000 live births, 670 Haitian women died of pregnancy-related causes in 2006.

Familiar with complications that can come with childbirth, Vasula hopes by having a maternal center in the community, less women will lose their babies during birth.

“It will help because with me, I had trouble during my pregnancy,” Vasula, who had her baby in Thomonde, said. “If I had my baby at home like many women do here, I would have lost my baby.

Vasula said when she was going into labor with Mate, she was at home with a mid-wife, but there were complications. Her family found a way to get her to Thomonde where she eventually had a C-section. While the maternal health center won’t be performing surgeries like C-sections, the medical staff there will be able to monitor the delivery and send women like Vasula to Thomonde for emergencies.

Gillef Mieloudes, 33, gave birth to her son Yadley at home. She said she was lucky that she didn’t have any complications.

Mieloude who lives in Denizrad situated between Thomonde and Marmont went to Thomonde for her prenatal checkups each month and planned to give birth at home, with the help of a midwife. But by the time the midwife showed up she had already had the baby.

She said she is happy knowing the maternal health center will open soon so that women in her community will have the services they need.

“When the maternal health center opens, if any women have complications with their pregnancy then they will know that there is a place for us to go,” Mieloude said. “Right now women in my community rely on Thomonde for the things that we need when it comes to our health. It will be so nice to have a place that is for women only.

The new maternal health center will be equipped with a full laboratory, incubators, examination and observation rooms thanks to a generous equipment donation provided by MedShare. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Jacque Balde, an auxiliary nurse for the Ministry of Health at the Marmont Clinic said there is a lot of interest in the maternal health center.

For now women go to the clinic in Marmont to receive women’s health services, and the new maternal health center will allow the Marmont clinic to focus more on pediatric and adult medicine.

“This is important that the people here will have such service, a good service in their home in Marmont,” he said. “When the maternal health center opens it will allow us to organized the Marmont clinic better so we can focus on pediatric and adult medicine.”

Balde is all too aware of complications that can come with childbirth. A few months ago, his wife suffered from eclampsia and gave birth to their son two months early.

“She gave birth at Hinche but there were no incubators,” he said. “They wrapped up our baby and kept him close to my wife, but at seven months you need an incubator. When I saw the incubator at the maternal health center it made me think of my son. If there had been an incubator at Hinche, it could have saved the life of my child.”

As the field coordinator for Marmont, Balde also organizes Project Medishare’s community health agents to go out into the community. As soon as he gets word that the center will open, it will be his job to educate the community health agents to let people know about the maternal health center and about the updated medical equipment available for the women in the community.

Project Medishare internist, Dr. Gerarde Mondesir said a big problem right now is that many of the women come to the Marmont clinic for their prenatal follow-up, but then they will go give birth somewhere else like Thomonde or in Hinche.

“The doctors and midwives there have never seen them before and have no clue about how their pregnancy has been the past nine months,” she said. “I think that it is important to have a maternal health center here, because if we detect a possible problem during their prenatal visit, we will know it and it will be on their file when they come in to give birth. We will be able to follow-up with them better because all of their care is happening in one place.”

Dr. Mondesir said it is also essential that women in Marmont will have a center in their community where they can give birth. She hopes by having the maternal health center, less women will have their babies at home. And she feels this will help decrease the maternal mortality rate in the community of Marmont.

“Sometimes the women live very far and getting them on the road and then all the way to Hinche or all the way to Thomonde is very difficult for them,” Dr. Mondesir said. “When the women realized how long it will take to get to the hospital, they just prefer to stay at home and have the baby there. I think that the maternal health center will also help decrease the maternal mortality rate here in this community. While there will be some mothers who still have their babies at home because they can’t make it here in time, I believe more women will come here knowing that there is a place close and someone here who can help them.”

The maternal health center is scheduled to open this spring.

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Bande Mangaliso Virgil, a pediatric resident from Morehouse School of Medicine, examines a patient in a pediatric clinic in a small school in Marmont. This week as part of Project Medishare's University Partnership Program, doctors, medical and MPH students are volunteering with the community health program. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

By Jennifer Browning

As part of Project Medishare’s University Partnership Program, Morehouse School of Medicine is working with Project Medishare’s community health staff in Haiti’s Central Plateau this week.

This year there are two returning doctors, and three returning students. Many from the team are surprised with what they have found while working

A Project Medishare community health agent works with the people waiting to be seen at the mobile clinic. The local staff operates the mobile clinics in the more rural areas outside Thomonde two to three times a week. Morehouse School of Medicine doctors and students are working with Project Medishare's local staff this week. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

the mobile clinics.

“It’s really been amazing to see how the Haitian community is dedicated to seeing to the well-being of their children and families,” Bande Mangaliso Virgil, a pediatric resident from Morehouse Medical School said. “You see how dressed up they are to come to clinic and how long they wait to be seen.”

Bande said that with all the negative imagery the media reports about Haiti, that there is actually hope even here, in rural Haiti.

“You see how far this country has come with the limited resources, because we hear in the media in the U.S. just about the turmoil and negative coverage when there is actually a lot of hope and progress here,” she said. “I mean they have along way to go, but I think programs like Project Medishare and just the commit of physicians globally that a lot of great things can happen here and Haiti. Here there is already a community that is receptive to having outsiders come in to help build infrastructure, help with healthcare and education.”

Bande said that while she is a resident, that working in Haiti this week has taught her to rely more on her instincts when she is diagnosing and treating patients.

“In the U.S. we rely heavily on technology like ultra sounds, X-rays and CT Scans. Being here I have to rely on clinical judgment based off a good history from a patient and a physical exam to make sound decisions for patient care,” she said. “That is sort of like a dying art in medicine right now and the way were are trained, and so I find this experience invaluable right now.”

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After vaccinating an infant, a Project Medishare nurse explains to the mother when the child will need further vaccinations. A vaccination chart recording all shots, as well as the child's current height and weight, is handed to each parent. Photo by Jennifer Browning.


By Jennifer Browning

Every first Wednesday of the month Project Medishare employees go to select area schools in Haiti’s Central Plateau to provide medical check-ups for children through the School Health Program.

A Project Medishare nurse organizes medicine for the children being served at Foundation en Chretienne School in the Lahoye area as part of the School Health Program. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

In 2008, Medishare received a grant from Cross International to begin working with primary schools in Thomonde, Marmont and Casse/Lahoye to provide access to age-specific curative and preventive healthcare to over 6,000 students between 5–19 years of age in Thomonde. This program reaches children typically neglected when it comes to access to health care. Additionally, there are certain ailments in children, such as malnutrition and visual problems that can handicap his/her ability to adapt, pay attention, and learn in school. Through the program, a community health nurse and two LPN’s visit these schools on a monthly basis and provide vaccinations, nutritional supplementation, visual screening, deworming, vitamin A and multivitamins, basic medical evaluations and health education. School Health is an important and supplementary aspect to Project Medishare’s Community Health Program. This program has the support of the Haitian Ministries of Health & Education with the goal to replicate it in other schools throughout the country.

In addition to providing medical examinations to the participating school children, it also allows Project Medishare’s staff to set up the vaccination clinic for infants. Here parents in the community bring their babies to check their weight and to get the necessary vaccinations such as polio, diphtheria, and tetanus. An average of 70-80 infants are seen each month during the school year.

Project Medishare nurse Marcel Pascal said the School Health Program helps the staff provide routine medical check-ups so that potential health issues can be combated immediately.

A Project Medishare community health agent measures a child at the Foundation en Chretienne in Cayemite, a village in Lahoye. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

“The School Health Program is important because now, the children don’t have to miss a day of school in order to get a check-up,” he said, “and if the child is having a health issue then it allows us to detect the problem sooner.”

Pascal said that the most typical conditions found in children during the medical examinations are worms and malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, intestinal parasites eat up to 20 percent of a child’s nutritional intake a day. In most cases, ridding a child of these parasitic worms can mean the difference between life and death. Importantly, worm infections cause anemia, vitamin deficiencies, a weakened immune system, lethargy and poor physical growth, especially in children. Worms also have longer-term economic effects. Anemia results in poor cognitive and intellectual development and impaired cognitive function.

In addition to the opportunity of early detection, the clinics provided through the School Health Program add a convenience for the parent. Before the program, parents had to wait to take their children to a mobile clinic in the area. This meant either and paying to rent a horse or donkey for the transportation, and possibly spend two hours under the sun during their journey to get to the clinic.

“Sometimes the parents don’t have the money, even if they see that their child needs to see a doctor, they can’t afford it,” he said, “so the School Health Program helps make sure these children get the appropriate follow-ups they need.”

Last year Project Medishare worked in 95 schools, and served 17,544 students through the School Health Program.

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The pediatric ward was up and running today in spite of the hectic atmosphere created by Sunday's move from the field hospital to Bernard Mevs. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

By Jennifer Browning

Today was a monumental day of sorts as Drs. Marlon and Jerry Bitar, owners of Bernard Mevs Hospital;  Dr. Arthur Founier, co-founder of Project Medishare; and Dr. Michel Dodard, Director of the Global Institute, addressed the current Bernard Mevs staff that will be working with Project Medishare’s medical volunteers.

“Project Medishare’s first meeting was here in 1994 at Bernard Mevs,”  Dr. Fournier said. “We have now come full circle.”

Project Medishare began in 1994 and brought down, Dan Kairys, the first medical student in 1995. Kairys was a first year medical student at Dartmouth, but was working in South Florida with Dr. Fournier. Back then, Project Medishare used to work primary care at Bernard Mevs and visited orphanages in Port-au-Prince.

Eventually Project Medishare started bringing medical mission trips to Haiti’s Central Plateau, the poorest region of Haiti.

In 2003, The Green Family Foundation funded a joint project of the University of Miami Pediatrics Department and Project Medishare. Project Medishare began a donor-funded Community Health Program in the community of Thomonde in the Central Plateau of Haiti, which now provides access to health care services for over 100,000 living in the district of Thomonde, and the surrounding areas of Marmont and Casse. Today, over 100 Haitian doctors, nurses, health agents, mid wives, lab and pharmacy technicians and administrative staff have achieved amazing feats such as increased the number of pre-natal visits for pregnant women from no pre-natal visits to an average of three visits for each woman, and decreased mortality among the population from 698 deaths in the first year of the program to 483 in the third year.

Project Medishare continued efforts in Port-au-Prince through specialty surgery programs such as the Pediatric Neurosurgery Program, which focused on children with hydrocephalus, and the Plastic Surgery Program, which focuses on children with cleft-lip and cleft-palates.

It was the years of working with the people and the Ministry of Health in Haiti that allowed Project Medishare to respond so quickly to the country’s urgent needs after the January 12 earthquake. Such relationships are what has allowed Project Medishare to bring volunteers to Haiti to provide healthcare this tiny Caribbean country needed.

While there is still a long road ahead, for Dr. Fournier, there has been a small victory achieved in providing the Haitian people access to healthcare.

Patients lined up waiting to be seen at Bernard Mevs. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

“There is truth in the old Haitian proverb: Ak pasiens n’ap triomphe,”
Dr. Fournier said. “With patience we will triumph.”

And patience will continue to be an important factor, especially today as volunteers and staff work to transition into Bernard Mevs.

After the meeting with the joint medical staff, the atmosphere was chaotic. There were boxes of supplies to sort through, generators to move in and put in place, and patients to care for, and so in a way, business continued as usual.

Today, the staff was greeted with a line of people waiting to see a doctor, and surgeries continued on schedule.

“We had a large number to come in for outpatients services, we were happy to see that people could find the new hospital so that they could continue to get treated,” Alyson Cavanaugh, a physical therapist from San Diego said. “It was amazing there was a line of people, but we were able to work with the doctors to make sure everyone was seen. “

Cavanaugh said that while the transition has been a little hectic, she could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“In patient wise, everything is getting more organized,” she said. “The units are getting set up with everything they need. It is starting to look like a real hospital.”

Funding is still needed to keep our efforts going in providing access to healthcare to the people of Haiti. Click here to make an online donation today.

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By Jennifer Browning

At 9-months old, Julisa was toddling across their house with the support of small chair when she stumbled into a small pot of boiling water. She received serious burns on her right arm and left hand. Now at age 12, she experiences burn contractures on both limbs.

Project Medishare nurse Rose-merline Pierre Louis checks Julisa's arm to see how it is healing after surgery. Local staff through Project Medishare's Community Health Program are seeing that those who had plastic surgery two weeks ago have follow-up appointments. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

During a visit to a clinic, Rose-merline Pierre Louis, a Project Medishare nurse, found Julisa, who is now 12, and noticed her burn contractures, which are permanent, shortening of burn scar tissue that pulls joints out of position and results in physical impairment.

As the burns on her arm began to heal, Julisa’s right arm contracted so that she couldn’t straighten her arm. This made it difficult for Julisa to do simple tasks like eating, washing clothes, or doing other basic chores.

Rose-merlin thought that Julisa might be a good candidate for plastic surgery to correct her condition. Rose-merlin called, Project Medishare nurse liaison, Maguy Rochelin who informed her that a team of plastic surgeons were coming to Port-au-Prince as part of Project Medishare’s Plastic Surgery Program.

In mid-May, Julisa traveled to Haiti’s capital to hopefully get her burn contracture corrected so that she could one day soon begin doing simple tasks. The plastic surgery team from Miami felt Julisa was a good candidate and scheduled her for surgery.

While she is still recovering, Julisa said she could already tell the difference with her right arm.

“Before I couldn’t wash myself or feed myself because I couldn’t bend my arm and my hand was deformed,” Julisa said. “I am happy that the doctors could help me. It was painful the first week, but my arm is much better now.”

While Julisa’s arm could be corrected, not all of her fingers on her left hand were able to be relieved of the burn contracture. Julisa’s grandmother Ersile said she is a little disappointed that the hand could not be fully fixed, but she is happy to see improvement in her granddaughter’s arm.

“I am happy because I see the improvement for her arm,” Ersile said. “Before Julisa couldn’t help me cook and wash up after a meal, but now I know that if I have to go out that she can stay and help with the younger children.”

But even more important to Ersile is that Julisa will be capable of caring for herself, if necessary one day.

“Most of all, I feel better knowing that if something should happen to me, that Julisa will be able to take care of herself when she gets older,” Ersile said. “That makes me happy most of all.”

Julisa still has a long road ahead of her. For the next few weeks she still needs to follow-up at the clinic in Casse to change the bandage and check the progress of her healing.

In addition to receiving the surgery, Julisa is also a participant in the Presidential Emergency For AIDS Research (PEPFAR) Program.

As one of five organizations in the Cross Haiti Alliance, Project Medishare received a three-year PEPFAR NPI grant in December 2008. Project Medishare has been focusing activities in the very remote community of Casse/Lahoye located in the commune of Thomonde.

Program objectives are to enable indigenous NGOs to develop their capacity and capability to deliver orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) services at the community level; provide care and support services for HIV/AIDS OVC’s; prevent HIV infection among adolescent and youths; and provide access to palliative care for people living with HIV/AIDS and affected households.

Project Medishare’s local staff has agreed to live in this remote area. The community is also mobilized and participating, which has a positive impact on the community.

After Julisa was born, she never received a birth certificate. Through the PEPFAR grant, community health agents were able to assist Ersile in getting her granddaughter the proper documents.

The same grant also provides tuition so that Julisa can continue to go to school.

Julisa said that she loves attending school.

“I like geometry because I love working with shapes and tracing with the rulers,” she said, “and I love to draw. I hope that I will become better at drawing when my arm heals.”

Dorval, a community health agent standing next to her smiled.

“She is already a very good artist,” he said. “She makes beautiful drawings.

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By Jennifer Browning

As a part of the Community Health and Development Program, Project Medishare is not only continuing to provide healthcare in Haiti’s Central Plateau, but also develop a sustainable community that will be able to thrive in the future.

One of these ways is through providing safe drinking water. Currently, Rick Spurlock and Emory Medishare are still working toward the Safe Water Project. Construction on a sodium hypochlorite production building is underway in Marmont. The facility is located next door to the new Maternal Health Center.

Training for the project workers will begin in the next few months with the help of Deep Springs International coordinating these efforts between Thomonde/Marmont and Jolivert.

Project Medishare and Emory University hope to have the program up and running by this summer, however the program still needs financial support and funding. Emory Medishare still needs to raise $20,000 to make this project a reality for the people of Thomonde, Marmont, and Jolivert.

The water project is in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000, which specify eight objectives, including improving health, promoting gender equality, reducing poverty, ensuring environmental sustainability, and enhancing access to education, to be achieved by 2015. Goal 7, “Ensure environmental sustainability” focuses attention on reducing “by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.”

Click here to make a donation to Emory Medishare’s Safe Water Project and join in the goal of providing safe drinking water for all in Haiti’s Central Plateau.

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