haiti-dc-smHaiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,  will be the special focus of collaborative efforts of the Vincentian Family during the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the deaths of Vincent and Louise.

This is a report of what the Daughters of Charity have been doing since 1973 where  33 Daughters of Charity serve in 11 diverse mission works. Reaching an estimated 100,000 people, the Daughter’s holistically focus on basic needs and health care, while offering training and education, thus engaging individuals toward integrated systemic change.

We welcome reports of other followers of Vincent and Louise are doing in Haiti.

Daughters of Charity in HAITI – Access Critical to Improved Health Care

Report submitted by Daughters of Charity International Project Services

USAID statistics reveal nearly three quarters of the Haitian population are considered poor (living on less that $2 USD per day per person) and 54 percent of Haiti’s 8.5 million people are extremely poor (less than $1 USD per day per person).  These poor are subject to marginalization and conflict as well as inadequate basic services, education and health care. Forty-six percent of Haitians do not have sustainable access to potable water, while thirty-four percent live without adequate sanitation.  HIV prevalence is 5.6 percent (UNICEF, 2007).  One out of 8 children dies before their 5th birthday. National unemployment is 70 percent. The adult literacy rate is 51.9 percent (World Bank 2003).  Only 15 percent of the schools in Haiti are public. And, in 9 percent of those schools, Catholics and clergy play a role, according to a 2006 report by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  Yet to the 33 Daughters of Charity serving in 11 diverse mission works, the Haitian people demonstrate character, courage and their intrinsic beauty.  In the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, where the Daughters of Charity Provincial House is located, the sisters began their services in 1973 with Lucelia Bontemps Health Center, a soup kitchen for the elderly and the Frederic Ozanam Center, an informal center for poor street children and their families.  Here and in three other communities in Haiti, the Sisters support all ages of people, from infants to the elderly, through basic health care including clinics and outreach programs, with social services such as soup kitchens and nutrition programs, and via schools and informal education and training.  Annually reaching an estimated 100,000 people, the Daughter’s holistically focus on basic needs and health care, while offering training and education, thus engaging individuals toward integrated systemic change. In 2004, while transporting medicines, the sisters were attached by armed individuals during the violent upheaval, who forcibly took their medical supplies and their vehicle. Daughters of Charity International Project Services (DCIPS) assisted in finding partners who provided funding to purchase another medical vehicle to enable the sisters in Haiti to continue their work. The program beneficiaries are largely people displaced by the socio-political situation, impacted by unemployment, and sometimes without resources for even a single hot meal.  Since these are people are living in chaotic conditions, within political disorder and surviving at a subsistence level, education often is a lower priority.  Hurricane disasters have compounded the difficulties, leaving roads submerged by flood waters, and survivors struggling with malnutrition and poverty, as well as loss of property and in some cases family and friends. The vehicle provided to the Daughters in Port-au-Prince aids in medical outreach and medical assistance to around 2000 children and 1500 adults each month.  Daily, 60 children and 60 elderly persons can count on two hot meals, and hundreds of malnourished children and PLWHA (persons living with HIV/AIDS) are assured of help and nutritional support.  This vehicle allows access to health, home visitations, hospital transports, and brings supplies and medicines to numerous children, families and elderly in and around Port-au-Prince.   In another area of Haiti, in Thomazeau, located in the northwest near the Dominican border, the Daughters of Charity canvassed the local people in early 2007 to ascertain their realities and their needs.  The people there reside in “habitations,” described as several homes that are inherited from fathers to sons, which are grouped together and share a common courtyard and bathroom (if there is such a facility).  Even though about an hour’s drive from Port-au-Prince, this rural living arrangement and their difficult road conditions often create isolation. The roads, like rocky cleared paths, experience frequent flooding due to the tropical climate, which washes them away or renders them slippery and treacherous for either driving or walking.  Impassable roads can contribute to health hazards as the local people often delay attempts to reach medical help until very serious complications have set in. In 2007, with assistance from donors through Daughters of Charity International Project Services, the sisters procured a new vehicle and initiated a mobile medical clinic to address grave health concerns, and the vast need for accessibility to health care and disease prevention education. The sisters have relocated their house to Perrier, where they continue to directly and indirectly benefit upwards of 6000 people through medicines for the dispensary, medical outreach, nutrition programs, and even enabling the distribution of potable water in areas where wells  offered only water unfit for human consumption Noted physician, anthropologist and co-funder of Partners in Health, who was recently appointed by former President Clinton as Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti, Dr. Paul Farmer has been quoted as saying, “For me, an area of moral clarity is: you’re in front of someone who’s suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act.” The Daughters of Charity in Haiti are among those who are acting to assuage the suffering of the Haitian people, in order to affect their rightful destiny.

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For additional information about Daughters of Charity projects and program needs in Haiti, contact Sr. Felicia Mazzola, D.C., director, Daughters of Charity International Project Services 248/849-4915   srfmazzo@doc-ecp.org www.daughtersips.org

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