|Community workers improve health in Haiti|
Nurse Renette Olivier leads training for community health workers at Darbonne, Haiti. UMNS photos by John Gordon.
By John Gordon*
April 21, 2009 | DARBONNE, Haiti
Finding medical care in rural Haiti is not as simple as loading up the minivan and driving to a neighborhood clinic.
Marie Chrewle, 28, and her grandmother, Ana Altidort, 68, say finding health care is difficult in rural Haiti.
Miles of bad roads or treacherous mountain paths often separate
residents from clinics and hospitals. The nearest facility can be
a 10-hour walk away.
But with the help of U.S.-based Global Health Action,
in partnership with The United Methodist Church, community workers are
being trained to meet the country’s urgent health-care needs.
“The good news is that properly-trained local community health
workers can prevent or treat 80 percent of the illnesses or diseases in
their own communities without additional medical care,” says Robin
Davis, executive director of Global Health Action, located near Atlanta.
More than 1,200 health workers have been trained in Haiti since the
program began in 1982. Each provides year-round health care to
about 100 families, or between 700 and 800 children and adults.
Last year, 12 health care workers were trained and continuing
education was provided for 101 others. Program workers hope to train 25
new health care workers this year.
But the workers strain to keep up with the health-care needs in the Haitian countryside.
“Too many people need help. I can’t help all of them,” says
Marie Carmel Jalouis, a community health worker who lives near Darbonne.
Life in a shanty
Jalouis’ neighbors include a grandmother, her daughter and infant child and other relatives.
The shanty where they live has no electricity or running water as they
struggle to survive in the Caribbean country, where three out of four
people live on less than $2 a day.
Haiti’s bad roads make it difficult to travel
to distant hospitals and clinics.
“I have nothing, nothing,” says Marie Chrewle, 28. “Sometimes, I
wash clothes for somebody and then they give me some little thing to
help my child.”
Each Haitian community health worker attends eight weeks of classes
and follow-up courses and receives a health bag filled with supplies
The cost for training each worker is $1,850. Global Health
Action receives financial support as a United Methodist mission project
and from United Methodist Women. United Methodist Women is administered
by the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global
“Education is the most important in the activities that they do for
the community,” says Renette Olivier, a nurse, instructor and
coordinator for the program.
“They talk to the moms, they advise them how to treat the children
when they have diarrhea,” says Olivier. “They talk to the people
about malaria, too.”
Emphasis on results
Besides preventing and treating diseases, health workers focus on nutrition, immunizations, safe drinking water and sanitation.
The emphasis on nutrition is showing results, Davis says.
Franck Toussaint heads a program that provides purebred goats that can change the lives of Haitian families.
“The rate and severity of malnutrition in children under 5
years of age has dropped significantly in areas where there is a
concentration of practicing community health workers,” she says.
Global Health Action also sponsors the Haitian Goat
Project. Local farmers who attend a training course receive a
pregnant goat mated with the project’s purebred stock.
“The two projects work closely because we have a problem of the
malnourished people,” explains Franck Toussaint, training
The better breed of goats, Toussaint says, means more money for
Haitian families to send their children to school and improve their
“In the past, we can sell a goat for 250 Haitian dollars and now we
can sell one for 1,000 Haitian dollars. That changes a life,” he
Jalouis, a health worker for 19 years, says the difficult job has its rewards.
“I find my pleasure in this way,” she says. “This kind of thing
is very, very important for the children and the community.”
The Advance info on Haiti community health workers program and goat project
*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Haiti Health Workers
Better Health for Haiti
Meals Help Haiti
Million Meals for Hungry
UMCOR assists storm-ravaged people in Haiti
Stop Hunger Now marks 10th with million meal event
UMCOR trains farmers to expand food supply
United Methodist Church Advance Project
Global Health Action
Stop Hunger Now