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Building a Future for Haiti’s Disabled

Global NGO Project HOPE says addressing the long-term medical needs of thousands of Haitians disabled by the 2010 earthquake and other tragedies is crucial to the future stability of many communities in Haiti.

“Disabled Haitians are eager for greater independence. They want to contribute fully to their communities; they not only want to be physically able to lead full lives, they want to work, to strive for a better life like any other Haitian,” said Lucien Armand, M.D., MPH, program director for Project HOPE in Haiti.

In September, Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization launched a new program in collaboration with local Haitian and United States-based health organizations to improve medical services for people living with disabilities caused by the earthquake and other tragedies. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded program will provide a full range of medical services for disabled persons from in-home care and therapy to advanced surgical interventions.

Together with Société Haitienne d’Aide aux Aveugles (SHAA), Federation Haitienne des Associations et Institutions des Personnes Handicapées D’Haiti (FHAIPH) and Surgical Implant Generation Network (SIGN) from Richland, Washington, Project HOPE is implementing the three-year, $3 million USD program. Newly renovated medical centers are being equipped to provide safe and effective surgical interventions, physical therapy, counseling and sufficient quantities of prosthetic and orthotic devices and mobility aids. Specialized training for health professionals at the medical centers will improve the level of patient care.

“Patients are receiving medical assistance such as corrective surgery, physical therapy, prosthetics and other psychosocial support,” said Dr. Armand.

“We are also very focused on community efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination against the disabled. We are taking our message to the streets of Haiti to show people in the community that the disabled have goals like everyone else – whether it be finding a job or just playing sports,” said Dr. Armand.

Project HOPE created the first free, comprehensive rehab and prosthetic facility in post-earthquake Haiti in 2010. The rehabilitation facility at Adventist Hospital in Diquini, near Port-au-Prince, is known as “Chanje Lavi,” which means “Changing Lives” in Creole. Chanje Lavi has helped thousands of patients to adapt to life with a disability and overcome the hardship that can arise for disabled people in Haitian society.

HOPE‘s long-term strategy is to build health care capacity in Haiti, by strengthening hospitals that will be capable of surgical interventions focused on upper and lower extremities and the trunk/spinal column, as well as increase the number of facilities that will focus on rehabilitation services. Follow-on services such as psychosocial care and mobility aids, artificial limbs and other devices are also featured in the program.

“Community-based organizations (CBOs) are crucial in this process,” said Dr. Armand. “The CBOs know their communities well and are working with us to locate the disabled and refer them to the appropriate facilities for medical assistance. Building relationships with each patient is crucial for us to offer ongoing support to a patient, whether it be monitoring the patient’s progress at home, giving the patient the vocational training he needs to succeed and ultimately helping the patient find work,” said Dr. Armand.

Repeated cholera outbreaks present an on-going challenge in Haiti. HOPE has sent medical volunteers to train and assist local health care professionals in areas affected by cholera since 2010 and continues to monitor the risk of cholera in the event a hurricane or tropical storms threatens Haiti.

About Project HOPE

Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 35 countries across five continents. www.projecthope.org

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