Fuel Shortages and Doubling of Prices Exacerbate Haitian Troubles

Unlike Florida, Haiti was fortunately spared the wrath of Hurricane Dorian. Similar to Florida before Dorian threatened, Haiti is suffering from a fuel shortage, a rapidly worsening fuel shortage having nothing to do with hurricanes. The recent doubling of fuel prices is making travel within the country even more difficult. Gasoline, which normally sells for about 224 gourdes ($2.33) per gallon, has increased to 500 gourdes ($5.20) in some areas. As reported recently in Agence France-Presse (AFP), “`The Haitian state does not have the economic means to pay its debts to the companies that import gasoline to the country,’ the source said on the condition of anonymity. `And for us, when we don't have money, we can't place orders.’” The AFP report continues, “Venezuela's PetroCaribe program, plagued by allegations of corruption but which had allowed Haiti to buy petroleum products more cheaply and on credit, has been suspended for more than a year…”


This most recent struggle in Haiti affects virtually everyone there. Daily transportation relies on cars, trucks, busses, and motorcycles. All travel in Haiti is agonizingly time-consuming given traffic congestion, especially in urban areas such as Port-au-Prince, and extremely poor road conditions. To get from the Airport in Port-au-Prince to the Dumay Clinic, a distance of under 7.5 miles as the crow flies, takes from 45 minutes on a good day to over an hour and a half on bad ones. Due to the wretched roads and long drive times, HAM’s 2014 Toyota Hilux truck purchased new in Haiti has required on average over $1,000 per month in repairs for well over a year.


Fortunately, both the Dumay Clinic and the Charles Solomon School in Port-de-Paix are entirely powered our from solar collection and storage systems.  Haiti’s electrical grid is expensive and unreliable on a daily basis so any group requiring a reliable source of power in Haiti must be able to produce their own, most often from a generator.  At HAM, we planned from the beginning to never rely on fossil fuels for our daily operations – they are costly, often difficult to obtain, and contribute to climate change.  Solar power fills our needs reliably and cost effectively.  Unfortunately, our operations in Haiti require ground transportation for most supplies and some personal, so for that we remain dependent on the instability of the fuel pump. 


Now let’s hope Haiti makes it through hurricane season without a new disaster to address.

More Surgical Services in Dumay

Healing Art Missions (HAM) is double blessed. First by having Dr. Jean Fritz Jacques as our Haitian Medical Director overseeing all medical related operations and second, because his specialty is general surgery, one of only about 100 general surgeons serving in Haiti. Born in Petit Goave, about 45 miles southwest of Dumay and educated at Faculté de Médecine at L'université d'État d'Haïti (UEH) in Port-au-Prince, Dr. Jacques has worked for HAM since 2008 and became our medical director in 2010. While the Dumay clinic functions as a primary care clinic, Dr. Jacques’ skill set has allowed us to provide minor surgical procedures to the community. Over the past two years, we have been working to upgrade our facilities and equipment in order to expand surgical services.

In 2018 we began remodeling a section of the clinic used for surgeries, adding new partitions and sealed doors and windows to help maintain a sterile field. We also upgraded our solar collection and storage system to be able to support an air-conditioning system we had installed in the surgical room. Air conditioning helps doctors and nurses avoid dripping sweat into the surgical field, as the sealed room can reach temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. This year we have continued the upgrades adding a scrub sink, electrosurgery cautery and suction machines, improved LED surgical lighting, an anesthesia machine, and instruments for general surgery, gynecological surgery and obstetric procedures. These improvements were made possible through generous grants from First Community Church in Columbus.

Dr. Jacques has wasted no time in putting these improvements to good use. In addition to the increased number and variety of surgical procedures we now offer the community, he has also been using the clinic’s surgical facilities and equipment for training medical residents from UEH.  Dr. Jacques is a hernia repair expert and a member of HRFU (Hernia Repair for the Underserved), has studied under U.S. based hernia surgeons and has been invited to participate in an annual Hernia Conference in New York City in September 2020.

Expansion of our surgery facilities and capabilities is but one of several programs HAM has improved or added over the past few years in our ongoing efforts to provide resources and funding to rural communities that lack access to basic resources, such as healthcare, education, employment, and clean drinking water.

Haiti Update from Dr. Tracee Laing, Founding Director HAM // June 2019

Dear Friends,

In case you haven’t seen or heard in the news lately, Haiti is struggling with some of the worst civic unrest and violence in decades. Daily manifestations, protests that all too often turn violent, are occurring all over the county. Political opposition parties call for the resignation President Jovenel Moise over allegations of his involvement in the Venezuela aid corruption scandal that reports claim over three billion dollars as unaccountable. The national police force has been unsuccessful in quelling the violence and many poor neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince are being ruled by Gangs running protection rackets, too often in collaboration of corrupt police and politicians. Inflation is skyrocketing and there is a rapid deterioration of the domestic currency with food insecurity growing. And the United Nations presence is minimal with only a small special political mission in place after ending a 15-year presence of its large multinational military presence in the country in 2017. HAM’s Haitian medical director, Dr. Jacques, and our in-country operations coordinator, Charles, have each independently told me Haiti is worse off than they have ever seen it in their lifetimes. Dr Jacques is concerned about the possibility of Civil War. He said it feels like a soccer game is being played out in the streets with no referee.

Throughout all of this HAM’s programs continue to operate while many businesses are closed down. I am so very proud of our staff. Staff doctors, all of whom live in Port-au-Prince, cannot get to the clinic most days, but the staff within walking distance is keeping the doors open. We have a stable source of power, so phones are charged. Dr Jacques has arranged to be available for phone consults during clinic hours. Our midwife is still delivering babies, and the clean water programs continue. We have been able to take advantage of days when the violence is down to get supplies to the clinic.  People know HAM is reliable; therefore, employees continue to work, those in need continue to come for services, and the community protects our property and people, while most everything else shuts down. The Haitian banks continue to operate so fortunately we can send money for payroll and needed supplies.   

It is too unstable for me to do anything effectively in Haiti this summer, but I plan to return to Dumay in October. HAM remains committed to provide the resources necessary so our Haitian staff may continue serve their communities. Thanks to all of you who sent donations from our June letter and update, your contribution will make a difference.


Sincerely,

 Dr. Tracee Laing

Improvements to Charles Salomon Primary School

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Last year saw the completion of plastering and painting of the Charles Salomon Primary School in the of Baudin-Gros Sable neighborhood of Port-de-Paix, where Healing Art Missions supports teacher and administrative salaries. This project was generously funded by the Larson Legacy Foundation and we are delighted to announce that this year the same foundation has funded a project to provide the school with electrical lighting powered by a solar array on the school’s roof. The K through 9th school was founded in 2008 by HAM’s long-time translator, eye technician and operations coordinator Jean Herard Charles, when he realized so many children were living in his neighborhood without the opportunity for an education. The school is built of cement cinderblock, and there has never been electric lighting in the classrooms which are only lit naturally by a few small windows. Connecting to the electrical grid in Haiti is very expensive and notoriously unreliable.  Just like HAM did with our primary care clinic in Dumay, we are installing a solar array collection system on the school roof which will power lighting and electrical outlets in each classroom. Thanks so much to the Larson Legacy Foundation for their leadership and generosity in funding this important project! 

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HEALING ART MISSIONS ON THE MAP IN HAITI

OCHA, the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the United Nations, is responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. Since the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, OCHA has been providing leadership and coordination for all humanitarian and development actors with a physical presence in Haiti. Nine years later, Healing Art Missions remains an official non-governmental organization working on the ground in Haiti delivering trusted health and medical services. Here is the 2019 map and list of OCHA’s official partner organizations working on the ground in Haiti. We are proud that Healing Art Missions remains a trusted partner of both OCHA and the Haitian Ministry of Health. Click on the first image below to view a high resolution version of the infographic.

Our new intern

Our new intern, Dr St Louis, we are so grateful to have her with us in Dumay.  When doctors graduate for medical school in Haiti, they are required to do one year of Social Service work in the country. We are assigned a new doctor each year in Dumay.