NPH Haiti and St. Luke Prepare for COVID-19
The novel coronavirus has reached Haiti. NPFS, St. Damien, and St. Luke stand ready to meet this global pandemic as best they can.
March 27, 2020 - Haiti
For the first time in recent memory the world’s population has come together to fight one common enemy: a virus. Since the outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19 in China last December, the globe’s collective conscience has awoken to the tragedy ravaging Asia, Europe, and beyond.
On 19 March 2020, President Jovenel Moïse announced Haiti's first two confirmed cases of COVID-19. In rapid succession, authorities declared a national emergency and closed all national borders, with the exception of freight shipments. Places of worship, schools, universities, and manufacturing facilities were ordered closed and a curfew was imposed (8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.) the following day with little notice. According to Le Nouvelliste, authorities canceled the famous Rara music festival, usually celebrated during Easter Week, well ahead of time.
In short, Haiti is now in lockdown.
Being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with inadequate sanitation infrastructure and public healthcare services, Haiti has had more than its fair share of problems. 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of the earthquake that killed an estimated 316,000 people and a subsequent devastating cholera outbreak. Recently, 2019 was a year-long cycle of social and political unrest and economic instability. Now the country, like others, faces a lethal and highly contagious foe: COVID-19.
Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs, (or NPFS, the French name for NPH Haiti) which has served vulnerable communities in Haiti since 1987, is working to ensure that our kids remain safe, whether they live in the flagship home St. Helene in Kenscoff, 25 miles outside Port-au-Prince, or in our special needs rehabilitation centers Kay St. Germaine, Kay Gabriel, and Kay Elaine supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the country—the very same population that is most vulnerable to COVID-19.
The homes have prepared ahead of time by taking decisive measures and implementing preventive protocols establish by NPHI Medical Services for all of NPH. Instructional posters have been hung around the schools and homes to remind everyone what to do and what not to do. Masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer have been stationed around the homes for easy access by staff and children.
Sanitation stations consisting of buckets with soap and diluted bleach solution have been placed around the homes; staff and children are encouraged to use them to clean their hands when access to a standard washroom is not available. Children have been taught to avoid close contact with other children. For St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, three sanitation stations have been set up at the entrance to the hospital for patients and visitors to wash their hands before entering.
Meanwhile in the current state of national lockdown, our caregivers organize activities to keep our children entertained and take their minds off the crisis.
Preparation for COVID-19 Cases at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital
National Director Dr. Jacqueline Gautier and NPHI Ethical and Medical Advisor Father Rick Frechette have been prepping St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and St. Luke Foundation for Haiti Hospital facilities and staff respectively well ahead of time. For example, the malnutrition ward at St. Damien has been converted into a coronavirus ward. Information in Creole is offered to patients on how to protect themselves from the virus.
As happened during the cholera outbreak after the Haiti earthquake, St. Luke has been designated as an official emergency disaster ward comprising 40 hospital beds, four of which are equipped with ventilators. The ward is already in use for triage of suspected cases and for emergency patient admissions seeking treatment for coughs, fevers, and shortness of breath.
"Working together with St. Damien Hospital, we are educating patients and taking necessary prevention and protection steps … more stringent handwashing protocols for non-clinical staff, imposing a moratorium on family visits, and creation of separate staffing pools for the main hospitals and the coronavirus wings. We have joined forces with the local health ministry and other hospitals to amass our collective strength to meet this challenge," says Fr. Rick Frechette.
"We ask for your prayers and we assure you of ours. We need and appreciate any support you can give."
Please support our NPH homes and healthcare activities during this time of need. Any help you can give is well received and accepted graciously. Please visit nph.org for more information.
Communication Officer, NPFS / NPH Haiti