March 8, 2012 was the 16th anniversary of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy. To mark the anniversary and International Women’s Day, the Foundation organized a health fair. Dr. Jessy Pierre, the medical director for the day, coordinated 32 doctors and 15 nurses who consulted over 600 people during the six hour clinic. The medical staff included two optometrists and a dentist. Students from 29 area schools came to the Foundation for the day for one-on-one consultations with physicians and also to hear health education talks. This health fair was organized in conjunction with 29 schools in the La Plaine area– whose students don’t often get the opportunity to consult with physicians.
While students waited for their consultations, the doctors present offered medical educations talks. Dr. Marie Antoinette Gauthier (surgeon and former member of Haiti’s national football team) stressed with students the importance of physical activity and encouraged them to find creative ways to stay active – all the while conscious that many schools don’t have any outdoor space, the few public parks that exist in Port-au-Prince are still occupied and walking on the streets dangerous with cars and taxi-motorcycles (taxi-moto). As students waited, doctors and/or nurses spoke to small groups about general hygiene, and with the rains approaching, the risks of cholera and cholera prevention
March also saw the inauguration of ‘Klinik Alo Dokté’ (Hello, Doctor Clinic)
Alo Dokte (Hello Doctor) is a public health education program on the Foundation’s radio station, Radyo Timoun. The program, which was launched in January, is hosted by 5 doctors and one dentist, who take calls from the public on health topics. All of these doctors are part of the corps of 745 Haitian physicians who were trained in Cuba since 1996.
The radio programs runs for one hour, 5 days a week. the program begins with a discussion of a health related topic (AIDS prevention, How to recognize Cholera, etc.) Phone lines are then open to callers. Adults and children then call in with very specific and sometimes very serious questions about their own health or the health of a family member. The doctors offer advice and answers to questions. The doctors also give out their personal cell phone numbers and get calls well into the night, even after they’ve left the radio station.
The tremendous response to the show has led to a decision to to create a clinic in the Foundation linked to the show where instead of calling, members of the community can come in person for a consultation with any one of the participating doctors.
Every Wednesday morning in the auditorium of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy in Tabarre, Haiti, over a 1000 people receive free primary care treatment. Almost all of the people coming to the Foundation for care are living in temporary settlements in the area.
The clinics have become a weekly gwo konbit medical – with 40 or more doctors, dozens of volunteers and health workers and pharmacists, working together to make sure that everyone who comes sees a doctor and receives the medicine they need.
Services offered include: general medical care, as well as pediatric, eye, dental, gynecological, orthopedic and psychological care. The Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP) sends health monitors to carry out vaccinations for all those who want them. Canned milk is distributed to all pregnant women and mothers of young children.
The most commonly observed health problems are malnutrition, diarrhea in children, respiratory ailments, urinary tract infections, intestinal parasites, and untreated high blood pressure. The vast majority of those attending the clinics are living in temporary settlements (tent cities) across the metropolitan area. Many of the health problems they face are a direct result of the conditions in the camps, which have little or no sanitation and limited water. And it is now raining nearly every night.