Today a record number of 4.7 million people in Haiti are currently facing acute hunger. Twenty-two percent of the children in the country are chronically malnourished, ten percent are underweight and sixty-six percent of children under the age of five suffer from anemia. This is happening just 800 miles off the southern coast of the United States.
Our work and mission exists to serve the children facing acute hunger and malnourishment in a country where education, opportunity, safe housing & water are hard to come from. The daily realities for the children we serve are hard to describe in words, but nonetheless, we remain committed to standing on MIDDLE GROUND as they fight for their lives.
Our approach to caring for the children who come through our gates is set apart by our holistic approach. It begins with the initial treatment, making sure the child overcomes his or her fight against malnourishment. Then comes the family preservation and the education piece, which includes several different approaches and programs. Finally, we participate in many sustainable practices to ensure the child never ends back up in his or her original battle facing malnourishment again.
It’s important to note that the majority of families we serve are from rural, mountain communities with little to no healthcare, and certainly no malnutrition recovery centers. This mean many children never receive malnutrition or healthcare services and often die at home. Over 80% of our referrals for inpatient treatment are now referrals from previous patients’ families. Our success stories are writing a new story for the future of Haiti and bringing HOPE to communities as they have now seen firsthand miracles of healing and can recognize things can be different for their children.
Our inpatient program exists to provide temporary care for children who are facing severe acute malnutrition. Children who meet the standards of severe acute malnutrition are treated by qualified medical staff following the Plumpy Nut treatment plan. They are also treated for general health concerns that are often prevalent in children with malnutrition. During their inpatient care, the caregivers of the patients receive in-depth health education to enable them to better care for their children at home.
Our formula program allows us to support babies under the age of one. Primarily, these babies have lost their moms either at birth or shortly after. The formula program aims to prevent childhood malnutrition by ensuring proper nutrition in the first year of life. Each baby and caregiver are given regular medical attention and ongoing education during their time in our formula program.
Our physical therapy program plays a vital role in improving the physical development of children as they recover from malnutrition. All children receive physical therapy services during their time inpatient and on discharge from the program are given exercise/play activities that can be completed at home to support the continuation and progression of core motor skills which are often delayed as a result of malnutrition.
A main reason children are admitted to our nutritional programs is due to a lack of education. There are many misconceptions about what makes up a nutritious meal, symptoms of malnourishment, and how to treat symptoms. Additionally, there is a lack of awareness surrounding hygiene, sanitation, birth control, child development & other important topics. All caregivers attend a mandatory class focused on the above issues that are taught by our medical staff.
We believe mental health care is an extremely important part of the healing process. We provide an option for counseling to every parent, caregiver and children over the age of three in our programs, as well as our staff. Classes are held several times a week for those currently enrolled and for those who have experienced loss. We believe that healing the body also includes healing the mind and see our mental health program as a vital part to our mission.
In addition to our mental health program, we also have a chaplain on staff that comes in several times a week to pray with families and walk alongside them on their journey to healing. He leads our staff in spiritual support and is a valuable resource to our team!
After children graduate from our inpatient program, they are required to return for follow-up appointments. Patients are initially seen two weeks after they are discharged and then monthly for up to six months. After six months, the patient will graduate to only yearly visits to ensure their ongoing health and growth.
Our follow-up work doesn’t stop there, though. We have created several other programs to help caregivers find ways to generate an income as an effort to create sustainable futures for all the families. Our small business program teaches practical business skills that apply to Haitian culture and practices. Once participants complete and pass the class, they can apply for a small loan to help jumpstart their business. Small businesses are a huge part to the Haitian economy, so this program offers effective, tangible ways to create an income for families.
Many of the families we serve live in very rural areas of Haiti, so we also work together to offer agriculture support to caregivers directly in their communities. Through the agriculture and livestock program, caregivers complete a 2 day business and money management class with our business instructor and then have a visit from a local agronomist in their community. Each family is gifted a farm pack, which includes everything needed to start an organic garden! The agronomist and social worker continue to follow up and support these families in their new sustainability journey for up to one year.
The last piece to our sustainability approach is our Community Advocate Program. It’s designed to train caregivers of children who have graduated from our programs with basic level training to help recognize and diagnose children suffering from malnutrition in their own communities. Advocates receive training that allows them to distribute Medika Mamba and Vitamamba, deworming medications, vitamins and oral rehydration salts. They’re also given materials to distribute in their communities with topics including malnutrition prevention, breastfeeding, nutrition for healthy development, safe water practices, treatment of dehydration and treatment of skin diseases. Advocates are also overseen by our team of Haitian nurses and doctors.
**note: some of our sustainability & agriculture programs are currently not actively running due to the insecurity situation, but we are continuously working towards seeing these programs operating at full capacity some day soon!**
In our efforts to impact the future of families, as well as Haiti, we offer school sponsorship to the children who have gone through our programs. Education is a vital part of long-term sustainability, but unfortunately, education is not free in Haiti. Many families simply cannot afford the high school fees for their children. Through this program, we offer tuition sponsorship as well as assistance with school supplies, books & uniforms. This piece is truly our favorite in fighting for the future generation of Haiti.