World News from Haiti
"A society where everyone, regardless of background or disability, feels welcome, included and supported"
Haiti six months on (13.07.10)
Six months ago, a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti just outside the capital Port au Prince. According to the Government of Haiti an estimated 220,000 were killed, 300,000 other were injured and more than 1.5 million people were left homeless. CBM was able to respond during the initial critical period following the quake, thanks to local partner organizations on the ground.
"We are thankful for the many generous supporters around the world who have given hope to thousands of Haitians," says Allen Foster, President of CBM. "But our work is far from being finished. There is a monumental task ahead of us."
For the past six months, CBM has been healing, rebuilding and transforming the lives of people with disabilities who were either injured from the earthquake or who had a disability prior to January 12th. Before the earthquake, it's estimated that 800,000 Haitians were living with a disability. Since the quake, that number has risen to over one million.
CBM has been working closely alongside other international aid organizations, including Handicap International (HI); collaborating with the Haitian Ministry of Health and the State Secretary for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (SEIPH); and leading a working group on Injury, Disability and Rehabilitation.
Hospital care, child day care centres, community-based health facilities (Antenne Handicap) and advocacy programs have been CBM's main focus.
CBM's work in Haiti - ensuring life and hope
Hospital Care Program
In cooperation with HI, CBM has positioned 20 physio/occupational therapists along with local rehabilitation technicians in Port-au-Prince.
Staff treat injuries, prescribe and fit assistive devices, and provide education to patients and their families on the safe and appropriate use of the devices.
To date, the hospital care program has provided 25,000 treatments to more than 1,800 people. CBM is currently in discussion with officials from the Ministry of Health regarding the establishment of a fund that would provide financial assistance for poorer residents of Port-au-Prince to access health care.
Child Care Centres
Nearly 1,300 schools in Port-au-Prince were destroyed by the quake, including Centre d'Education Speciale (CES), a long-standing CBM partner that served children with disabilities.
Together in partnership with the Canadian Christian Children's Fund, CBM is providing tents and supplies for six child care day care centres for children with and without a disability. There, young children have a safe place to play, receive an education and have access to rehabilitative care or other medical services.
To date, CBM has opened six new centres for children. Plans are underway for an additional four new centres to open this fall.
Community-Based Health Facilities ? In partnership with HI and the State Secretariat for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (SEIPH), CBM has set up nine 'Antenne Handicap' (community-based health facilities).
Physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other health care staff serve as liaisons between people with disabilities who are newly released from the hospital, return to their families and require assistance in rebuilding their lives in the community.
The Antenne staff informs survivors of rehabilitation services available and identify patients in need of further medical or rehabilitative care. Much needed psychosocial support is given to survivors who have experienced emotional trauma.
The need is now shifting from earthquake-related clients to untreated pre-quake clients. To date, the Antenne program has reached almost 7,200 people providing 27,000 treatments. Plans are underway to expand the Antenne program to areas outside of Port-au-Prince.
Advocacy Program ? The advocacy program aims to strengthen capacities of local, community-based Disabled People's Organization (DPOs) in order to influence the development and implementation of public policies ensuring the inclusion and accessibility of people living with a disability in all aspects of rebuilding and reconstruction. This project is implemented in partnership with the Haitian State Secretariat for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities (SEIPH).
"People the world over should be encouraged that their gifts to Haiti are making a difference," says Foster. "CBM has saved many lives and is providing long-term rehabilitation and care for people with injuries and disabilities. Our goal is for these survivors to be fully integrated into their communities. Funding for our work now and in the future is still vital; CBM will continue to help people with disabilities in Haiti for the long run."
Countless Lost Limbs Alter Life in Haiti ’s Ruins
(By Deborah Sontag, Port-Au-Prince , The New York Times, 22.02.10)
— “Don’t cut off my leg!” Fabienne Jean screamed repeatedly as she was carried through the gates of the General Hospital here after the earthquake. “I’m a dancer. My leg is my livelihood. Please, don’t take my leg.”
After four days on the hospital’s cluttered grounds, lying among what she described as the “dead and living all mixed up,” Ms. Jean was wheeled into an operating tent where her crushed, infected right leg was amputated below the knee.
“It is a sad story,” Ms. Jean, 31, a slim, graceful woman who danced for the Haitian National Theater, said recently, massaging her bandaged stump. “But what can I do? I can’t kill myself because of this, so I have to learn to live with it.”
More than a month after the earthquake, thousands of new amputees are facing the stark reality of living with disabilities in a shattered country whose terrain and culture have never been hospitable to the disabled
Some remain in hospital tents swarming with flies; others have moved to makeshift post-surgical centers; and those who healed quickly, like Ms. Jean, have been discharged to the streets, where they now live. All need continuing care in a nation with no rehabilitation hospital, few physical therapists, no central prosthesis factory since the quake and a skeletal supply of crutches, canes and wheelchairs gradually being reinforced by donations.
“The situation for newly disabled persons is very delicate,” said Michel Péan, Haiti ’s secretary of state for the integration of the disabled. “They urgently need not only medical care but food and a place to live. Also, we cannot forget those disabled before the disaster who, because of their handicap, are having trouble getting access to humanitarian aid.”
Rough estimates of the number of new amputees are based on information from overburdened hospitals that did not keep good records of surgeries. The Haitian government believes that 6,000 to 8,000 people have lost limbs or digits. Handicap International estimates that 2,000 to 4,000 Haitians underwent amputations, and many thousands more suffered complicated fractures, some of which could turn into amputations if not managed well.
Dr. Péan, who is blind and serves in a relatively new post as government advocate for people with disabilities, said that Haiti ’s disabled — some 8 percent of the population even before the quake — had long been treated as second-class citizens. But the government has recently taken legal steps to recognize their rights and opened offices to serve them in the countryside, he said.
Ideally, Dr. Péan said, post-earthquake reconstruction could provide an opportunity to make Port-au-Prince , Haiti ’s capital, more accessible to people with disabilities and the impetus to create a national institute for rehabilitation.
For the moment, though, the urgent focus is on the uncertain present: making sure the thousands who underwent life-saving amputations have a future.
Handicap International, based in France , has been coordinating the postdisaster rehabilitation effort with CBM, a Germany-based Christian disability group, and with the Haitian government. Its volunteers — about five dozen therapists, nurses, technicians and community workers — have been providing postsurgical care and physical therapy at 12 hospitals here, and the organization is setting up a prosthetics workshop, too.
“We know that persons with injuries and disabilities are going through a difficult time right now, but they should not feel they’re alone,” said Aleema Shivji, an emergency response specialist with the group. “There are services available, and they’re increasing by the day.”
Recently, Caryn Brady, a physical therapist from Canada , made rounds through the sweltering postoperative tents outside the General Hospital . The patients there are being seen by such a revolving cast of international medical professionals, with charts so poorly kept that scribbled messages on bandaged stumps communicate the essentials: : “See again on Feb. 23. Thanks. (Smiley face.)”
Bedside, Ms. Brady led Emmanuel Souverain, a university student whose right arm was amputated, through a series of exercises meant to prevent contractures and keep his muscles healthy for a prosthesis — although there is no plan yet to manufacture upper-body prosthetics.
Proceeding on to Mana Alexandre, 22, a double amputee in a white slip, Ms. Brady smiled when Ms. Alexandre showed off, bicycling her two leg stumps fiercely, a proud smile on her face. After more exercises, Ms. Alexandre moved, with the therapist’s guidance, into a wheelchair, but worried about how to get back into bed.
“Well,” her petite, dimple-faced mother, Evenie Belizaire, said, “I’ve been lifting you your whole life, with God’s help.”
|MDAA gratefully acknowledges funding provided by the Australian Government through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs,
as well as Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Department of Human Services NSW.
For Telephone Interpreter Service - Call 13 14 50
9381, Harris Park NSW 2150, Australia
(02) 9891 6400 | Fax (02) 9635 5355