as some of you may recall, immediately after the earthquake in haiti on jan 12, i was asked to go down and help with NGO coordination. i was told i was going to leave on wednesday, then on saturday, then wednesday, then saturday. . . it went on for about a month. in the meantime i was able to team-up with a women in our office of global health affairs and start an inter-agency working group on haitian health facilities. (you can see the work here: https://www.travax.com/scripts/HaitiAid/Default.aspx)
it was crazy! the group is over 100 people now with representative from WHO, PAHO, Google, Travax, crisis commons, ushahidi, harvard, emory, DOD, HHS, USAID, etc. we are going to write a paper for the lancet about our database. and the work we did is now being utilized by all sorts of gov't and NGO agencies. it is exciting. i think i might have done more by staying and chairing this group than had i gone.
but now, i am going. i am going to help the ministry of health and population (MSPP) start adopting the databases (one is an a master list of facilities with unique identifiers and the other is an inventory of capacity). we are going to go to the different districts and learn about how the NGO coordination was structured and identify what worked and did not work. we are hoping that from this trip we will be able to glean some helpful information that will support NGO coordination during future disasters. again, we are toying with publishing a paper on NGO coordination based on what we learn. i will share those lessons here on my blog, and a link to whatever paper is published in the future.
right now, my mind is pretty stressed about getting ready to go. i am leaving tuesday morning for new orleans for meetings on gulf coast recovery -- emphasizing how to address mental health issues and buoying up the community health centers. i leave wednesday night for miami where i will spend the night. thursday morning i will meet up with nadine gracia (the chief medical officer of the assistant secretary for health) and alyson (my former intern turned presidential management fellow, who is on rotation now in my office) and we will fly to haiti.
in haiti, alyson, nadine, and i will share a tent on the grounds of the embassy. even though we have been offered places to stay in Port au Prince, we are not allowed to due to the threat of another earthquake. apparently the chances of another earthquake is relatively high. they don't want us in a building that might collapse in an earthquake. i don't want to be in one of those buildings either. it will be kinda weird to be sharing a tent with colleagues. this is a whole new type of business trip for me.
we are also supposed to bring stuff so that we are relatively self-sufficient. so, i am going to bring a bunch of food bars, some potato chips, dehydrated fruit, and of course tea. should be interesting. there is apparently quite a shortage of food. we are able to get food at the embassy, but the lines are long and the food not yummy.
speaking of long lines, apparently there are only a couple of showers at the embassy for TDY'ers (Temporary Duty Assignment) to use. the lines are super long. it is also really hot about 100°F and super duper humid. the good news is that there is a lap pool! this means i will get to get clean and exercise at the same time :)! so relieved about that!!
we have been trying to talk with people in haiti since the earthquake. it is not easy. the internet barely works. i won't be able to post from there, but i will share photos and some of my experiences here when i get home.
my plan is to keep a daily journal. i am hoping that it will both help me process what i am experiencing and help me remember it.
nadine is a haitian american. she has family in haiti that she is close to. it is going to be an emotional trip for all of us, but i really feel for her and having to see her motherland so destroyed. it is going to be an intense trip.
i am both looking forward to it, and nervous about it.
i believe it will be a great place to practice being zen. my guess is it will be hard for me to make the time to take care of myself. but i am going to work hard and try and be disciplined about getting enough sleep; exercising; journaling; and eating regularly. it is all about balance. if i am not taking care of myself, i won't be able to be helpful to the haitian people. (this is just a little teabelly pep talk).
just to share a bit more, if you are still reading you are obviously interested . . .
on monday we had a meeting at the department to figure out strategies for rebuilding/building the haitian medical education system. it was an exciting meeting. needless to say, there is a HECK of a lot to do! it was closed to press, but the State department wrote this article to share with the embassies:
16 March 2010
U.S., Haiti Experts Plan to Rebuild Medical Education System
January earthquake killed 73 doctors and nurses, damaged 30 hospitals
Among the more than 250,000 who died as a result of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince January 12 were 73 doctors, nurses and other health care providers. Thirty of Haiti’s 62 hospitals were severely damaged and more than 500 medical students are unable to finish their studies.
Haiti’s most urgent needs, said Dr. Gabriel Thimothe, director-general of Haiti’s Ministry of Health, include temporary or prefabricated buildings, training for emergency physicians, help getting medical students back in school, and psychological support for some of Haiti’s most beleaguered citizens.
“One challenge we are facing now,” Thimothe said, is “to provide psychological support to more than 4,000 people [with mental disorders]. Mental health was not a priority for the Ministry of Health but now it’s a critical issue to be addressed.”
For the nearly 10 million people in Haiti, he added, there are two doctors per 10,000 people and only 1.8 nurses. Fewer than 300 newly trained doctors per year graduate from medical school, and many leave to practice medicine in countries where salaries are higher.
Part of what is needed in Haiti, said Dr. Rubens Pamies, a meeting co-chair and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is to rebuild educational and treatment facilities with the technical backbone to accommodate 21st-century treatment and education, including telemedicine.
COMMITMENT TO REBUILD
The meeting, hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, arose from discussions with physicians in the Haitian diaspora about the devastation to Haiti’s medical-education system and the great loss of life among its doctors, nurses and medical and nursing students.
Earthquake-damaged homes are seen in the Canape Vert neighborhood of Port-au-Prince March 14.
Bringing greetings from Secretary Sebelius, Petrou added, “Since the earthquake President Obama asked us to pool our resources to do everything we could to be helpful. Hosting this meeting is just one small thing we’d like to do to give you the opportunity to talk together and try to address these problems.”
During the meeting, the experts shared recent experiences and explored short- and long-term needs and strategies for rebuilding Haiti’s medical education and training system, including acute and urgent needs, undergraduate and graduate medical education, infrastructure building, long-term needs and future collaborations. The experts also began work on a system that will help coordinate the broad range of international help on the ground in Haiti.
“We all appreciate very much the need to transition to recovery and to building a long-term, very sustainable infrastructure for health and health care in Haiti,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response. “Certainly medical education and health professions education is a huge part of that, and the losses to the medical education system in Haiti make that even more important.”
At the end of the day-long meeting, said Dr. Garth Graham, HHS deputy assistant secretary for minority health, the experts agreed on a collaborative approach to rebuilding across schools of medicine, public health and allied health professions such as nursing and pharmacy. The group also agreed on the need to engage other nongovernmental and philanthropic organizations for resource support.
“At the end of the meeting, participants agreed to form steering work groups for undergraduate education, graduate education and systems and infrastructure building,” Graham said. “These three work groups will continue to develop and refine plans and strategies.”
A key outcome, he added, was an agreement to work collaboratively to implement strategies formulated during the meeting.
“We have to move forward despite this tragedy,” Thimothe told the attendees. “What I hope is that we can work with all of you around the table, all the universities and agencies that have an effective and quick response to needs which are very critical in Haiti. With this strong partnership, this commitment, we can move forward in Haiti.”
More information about the Haiti earthquake and disaster response is available through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Haiti page and the Haiti Earthquake Fact Sheet #44 (PDF, 56KB).
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)