Despite Challenging Conditions, Work Goes on in Haiti

Despite Challenging Conditions, Work Goes on in Haiti

Danielle Brown is the Program Coordinator of the Leadership, Management and Sustainability (LMS) project in Haiti. She worked with our teams in Haiti from October 24 – November 14.

River Crossers at Rivií¨re des Barres


It’s two days after Tropical Storm Tomas hit Haiti and our caravan of Leadership, Management and Sustainability (LMS) Project/Haiti Landcruisers filled with MSH employees hits its first challenge on the seven-hour stretch of road from Port-au-Prince to the North West region of the country---a wide river to cross. Our drivers know the routes well and we forge ahead, with water rushing by the cars until we reach the other side. In the backseat with two colleagues from LMS, we hold onto the handles of the car and onto each other, dodging in and out of mud pits and bouncing through the muddy roads. This is the start of our journey to deliver the first offering of the community-based leadership development program (LDP) in Haiti, a program that strengthens leadership capacity in rural communities. This is the first time the program will be offered in a Francophone country, and in this case, further adapted into Haitian Creole.

Our caravan pulls into the city of Port de Paix to meet with the Ministry of Health. We soon confirm what we had heard earlier on the radio: cases of cholera have spiked in the very region and towns that we are going to in the North West on this trip. More than 600 cases of cholera have been reported in this region alone and 50 deaths. The heavy rains from Tomas drastically increased the number of cases. We can now see why, on the roads are flowing with muddy water.

Community mobilizes around a case of Cholera in the streets of Port de Paix


No matter how much you imagine the disease or see it on TV, it will never be as shocking as seeing it in person. As our team gets out of the car in Port de Paix, we hear a commotion on the street. Our group of seven health care professionals and two drivers all freeze and our eyes widen as we see a young woman stretched out writhing on a cot in the middle of the street with at least ten people crowded around her. She’s screaming and vomiting and the crowd around her grows bigger. The doctors from our group spring to action, asking questions, “Does she have diarrhea?” “Can she eat anything?” We know from their answers that its cholera. We tell them to take her to the nearest hospital and avoid contact with the body fluids. The crowd lifts up the bed and carries the girl down the street with spectators following behind.

After meeting with the Ministry of Health, we learn that cholera cases have also spiked in the North West region, including in the town where we were supposed to go the following day---Anse a Foleur. We also learn that there is an even bigger river that we will have to forge to get there, Rivií¨re des Barres. Any rain today could make it impossible for us to reach the town. Our team mobilized to go see the river and assess the challenge. We watched in amazement as groups of determined Haitians waded in the waist-high water carrying their fellow community members on their shoulders through the water. This is just one small example of the many day-to-day challenges in the life in rural Haiti and of the solidarity of the communities that live there. We were not able to make it to the community this time, but we have shifted the dates of the program back and will start again once the rainy season is over.

End of a successful week of training for community LDP facilitators from the Ministry of Health in the North West Department


Seeing the river crossers inspires us to continue working with rural communities. We are more motivated than ever now to apply the same determination and strength that we saw in the river crossers to our work in the communities who are fighting against cholera on the other side of the river.