Gala supports medical needs in northern Haiti

NOAH NY and the Haitian American Alliance held its third gala to raise funds for what will be its sixth medical mission to northern Haiti.

NOAH NY hopes to eventually help construct a new hospital in Ft. Liberté. The Russian Tea Room on May 10 was filled with doctors and medical professionals, activists, friends of Haiti, and a sprinkling of celebrities who support this work.

With the next medical mission, scheduled for late June, Howard University will be sending 33 doctors, dentists, and medical students. EMS training is also planned for the next mission that will have at least 75 volunteers and will also serve smaller communities outside of Ft. Liberté.

Dr. Henry R. Paul, assistant professor of Medicine at SUNY Downstate and president of NOAH NY, leads the team, having worked with NOAH in Washington until its branch in New York was formed. He was pointed to Ft. Liberté by his cousin Stanley Barbot, a Haitian radio personality and activist who died of cancer in 2009.

Volunteers pay their own airfare and hotel costs in Ft. Liberté. The mission pays ground transportation for the four-hour overland trip from Santiago, Dominican Republic to Ft. Liberté and all in-country transportation. Funds raised also pay for all medications and supplies, either shipped or brought by the volunteers. Any not used are left for hospital use.

A list of notables in the Haitian and medical communities were honored at the gala. The esteemed Provost of Howard University, Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., Queens-resident, RN, business woman and civic activist Mercedes Narcisse, anthropologist and public health trained Nancy Dorsinville and Daniel McCarthy COO of Health First were among the honorees.

Former Haitian Ambassador to Belgium and current education advocate Maryse P. Kedar traveled from Haiti to receive the Humanitarian Award.

Having been on four NOAH NY missions and with plans to go again in June, Nigerian-born internist, Dr. Adebola Orafidiya attended the gala with fellow mission veterans. On site, he treats high blood pressure, diabetes, pain, arthritis, injuries and wounds.

Ft. Liberté is along the northeastern coast of Haiti, 45 minutes from the Dominican border. With a population of 35,000, of which 5,000 are recently settled displaced persons from the earthquake, it is the largest municipality in the region of over 300,000 residents.

The area has a desperate need for health care support.

Ft. Liberté’s hospital serves this region with three full-time doctors, a surgeon, a pediatrician, and an obstetrician, and 10 residents–recent Haitian medical school graduates doing their two-year obligatory social service. (That’s one doctor for 25,000+ residents; the average in Haiti is 1 for 11,000.) Cuban doctors–a gynecologist and a pediatrician–serve on a two-three month rotation.

In 2008, the hometown association of Ft. Liberté-ADFE approached NOAH NY and asked if they would partner for medical assistance and development for the town. They’ve been working together ever since.

NOAH NY’s 75 volunteers, last year included 40 doctors, nurses and nursing students, teachers for their expanded education mission, and translators. About half are not Haitian.

When the earthquake happened, the January 2010 mission, already planned, was moved up and detoured to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince where the doctors set up a field clinic in Bojeux Park in Tabarre within a week and had an ongoing presence for six months.

“The relationship with the town of Ft. Liberté is a true partnership,” says Dr. Paul. “Also, we have key partnerships with major universities, Howard University and SUNY Downstate.” This is significant in their on-going commitment.