As part of our ‘GOAL on the Ground’ series Kevin Naughton looks at how GOAL is helping vulnerable communities fight the spread of Covid-19 in Haiti.
To date, Haiti recorded over 4,300 cases of Covid-19 with 73 deaths. The first case was officially reported on 19th March in the capital city, Port au Prince. In response, the border with the Dominican Republic was closed and flights were suspended. As the Americas have become the epicentre of this global pandemic, Haiti has seen a sharp rise in cases throughout the month of June.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and the whole western hemisphere. It has weak health systems and much of its infrastructure is still reeling from the 2010 earthquake which killed over 220,000 people. Haiti regularly sees outbreaks of diseases such as malaria and cholera. Through the last decade, over 9,500 people have died from the worst cholera outbreak in decades.
With a population of 11 million people, Haiti only has access to 60 ventilators. This stark fact, along with a lack of trained medical professionals, makes Haiti one of the most vulnerable countries in the region.
GOAL’s response to COVID-19 in Haiti has focused on remote information campaigns, rolling out our Community-Led Action approach, cash transfers to help the most vulnerable and adapting our existing programmes to the changing environment within which we operate.
With limited healthcare facilities, the best method of protecting vulnerable communities from Covid-19 is prevention. GOAL is supporting the spread of COVID-19 messaging in two regions – Haiti West Department and Grand Anse Department. These awareness campaigns are being done door-to-door. So far, GOAL has reached in excess of 10,000 people with health and safety information through these campaigns. Our teams are promoting and maintaining social distancing. However, Haiti is a densely populated country and many people live in highly populated slums as much of the housing was destroyed following the 2010 earthquake.
GOAL is also distributing posters containing vital disease prevention information. Banners have been hung over roads to maximise impact.
In addition to these information campaigns, GOAL has trained community mobilizers to lead their communities in disease prevention in all our areas of operation. So far, 24 mobilisers have been trained in Port au Prince, and 16 in Jeremie.
Community Led Action (CLA)
Building on GOAL’s experience during previous outbreaks of cholera, our team is using a Community Led Action (CLA) approach to facilitate local engagement with vulnerable groups around the risks of COVID-19. GOAL has engaged with the Regional Public Health Offices, local authorities and community leaders to co-ordinate their approaches to COVID-19. GOAL is distributing personal pro
tection equipment (PPE) to communities including face masks.
Our teams are focusing activities in 29 areas that have been identified as highly vulnerable. One of these is the Jeremie area, where GOAL has supplied the local hospital with PPE and installed handwashing facilities and solar panels to reduce the likelihood of power cuts.
Food and Nutrition Security
Over 60% of Haiti’s population live below the poverty line. With many people relying on the informal economy for income and food supplies, restrictions on gatherings and work practices has the potential to lead to a food crisis.
For many years, GOAL has been working to make informal economies in Haiti more resilient in times of crisis. Our ‘Resilience of the Blue Economy’ programme has been working with fishing communities to improve work practices such as governance, access to cash and improving infrastructure. This programme has never been more important as fishing is a major source of food for people on this island nation.
Impact on GOAL operations
Like many counties, Haiti has introduced local restrictions around travel and social distancing. As a result, our team in Haiti has had to adapt its existing programs in order to work remotely.
The next big problem for Haiti is that we are approaching hurricane season. In 2016 Hurricane Matthew caused billions worth of damage and led to the deaths of nearly 600 people. The fear is that if another powerful hurricane hits Haiti during the peak of this pandemic, this will further damage health infrastructure and potentially force people from their homes into crowded shelter accommodations.
Despite the challenges our team in Haiti have experience with disease outbreaks, hurricanes, and earthquakes and are using this disaster relief expertise to help one of the world’s poorest communities prevent a severe outbreak of Covid-19.