Excellence and Hope in the Time of Covid-19: An Update from Haiti

From MFK Founder and CEO, Dr. Patricia B. Wolff

We hold our collective breath for the survival of all our colleagues, friends, and patients in Haiti. Our Haitian managers and workers are excelling in keeping the factory, nutrition programs and agricultural programs going strong, without our foreign staff who evacuated in March.

Currently, 18% of our Haitian employees are out with fever or other symptoms consistent with COVID-19.  Thankfully, no one has died. The remaining workers have kept the factory open producing Medika Mamba/Plumpy ‘Nut for Haitian needs and for export.  Our MFK nurse continues to support malnutrition clinics with Medika Mamba and by providing advice over the phone. Our agronomist continues to visit and advise smallholder farmers on better methods of peanut growing which will increase their incomes and decrease fungal contamination with aflatoxin. MFK has been buying large quantities of peanuts from Haitian farmers this week as the harvest continues.

The St. Louis team is supporting these efforts by purchasing and shipping needed supplies, holding daily phone calls to discuss problems relating to customs, peanut purchases, customer requirements, technical assistance to electrify the our new depot, and planning for solutions to our current and future power needs.

Meanwhile, there has been minimal COVID-19 testing available in Haiti and little guidance from the Ministry of Health. Most of the guidelines used in the U.S. are not feasible in Haiti. For example, there is no way to quarantine a person who has been exposed or even a person known to be infected. The majority of Haitians live in 1 or 2 rooms with 6-7 other people. There is no way to call out for groceries to be delivered at curbside or at one’s home.  There is often no running water to wash hands. For food, there is a daily or every-two-day trek to a crowded market where only a few people wear masks.

It seems there is a belief among the population that COVID-19 is a hoax and that the “little fevers” that are prevalent all over the country are due to something else.  At least two COVID-19 treatment centers have been set on fire, apparently in a misguided effort to staunch the spread of the virus.

MFK employee, Rose Marie, wearing a hand-sewn mask
MFK employee, Rose Marie, wearing a hand-sewn mask

Amid this, MFK has supplied masks, transport to and from work, gloves, hand sanitizer, advice, and increased allowance of sick days to anyone who might be infected by COVID-19.  The factory is the safest place to spend time in Cap-Haitien.

MFK has also loaned our 10–passenger Toyota vehicle to the Baptist Hospital, located one mile from us, to haul oxygen generators, air conditioners, and other equipment to their improvised COVID-19 treatment center. The hospital’s only vehicle broke down after the border with Dominican Republic closed. They have been unable to get parts to fix it. Additionally, MFK had just taken a 15KW generator out of service and intended to sell it. Instead, we loaned this generator to the Baptist Hospital to power the oxygen generators in the COVID-19 treatment center.

As always, we thank you for your support of malnourished children, pregnant women and workers and farmers in Haiti. We can’t do this important work without you. With your help we will get through this and move on to a better future in Haiti.