Today (Feb. 3) we started a clinic in Gwo Mon, which translates as “big mountain.” I consider myself quite the adventurer. I grew up next to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and I often spend my leisure time hiking the trails, doing whatever I can to summit the peak of a 1200-meter mountain. However, the trek we pursued yesterday was a new level of adventure.
The five Haitians bouncing in the car with me laughed at the shock and awe on my face as the truck drove deeper and deeper into the Haitian jungle, up a mountain, across rivers, along the edges of cliffs. All the while I’m wondering why we only brought one spare tire instead of six. Yet, this is their work. The nurse we were doing training with sat next to me in the car, explaining her weekly routine to access the clinic we were headed to. She usually takes a moto-taxi (motorbike). They can navigate the trails a bit easier than our big truck, but she says if it rains, she waits on the road until the rivers come down. Every week she goes to the clinic for 4-5 days, and returns home for the weekend to see her family and prepare food for them for the next week. She brings vaccinations, wound care products, antibiotic treatments, antifungals, and the list goes on. Every week she takes what she can to this clinic halfway up the mountain to facilitate access to quality health care for the Haitians living in this remote setting. Now she brings Medika Mamba.
When I first started my fellowship with MFK, I looked into several research articles from the World Health Organization in order to gauge what I should be seeing at clinics in terms of numbers of malnourished children. Statistically the regions in the remote and rural areas have higher numbers. I am familiar with the 22 programs we have going at this time in northern Haiti. But when we put word out that we wanted to continue training local nurses we received word from a village in Gwo Mon. This village is an hour outside of Gonaïves, and the clinic is further into what I can only describe as the jungle from there.
When we arrived, sitting under a huge canopy of trees, sat over 200 children, their siblings, and their mothers and fathers. This is the first time a product that can treat malnutrition has been available to these people.
“Bonju Tout Moun [Hello everyone]!” I shout to the crowd patiently waiting for our arrival. “Bonju!” they respond together.
Rose Carline and I were fortunate enough to be joined by Valmy, MFK’s customer service manager. Valmy is originally from Gonaïves and served as a very helpful guide and translator. The people in Gwo Mon speak Creole, but the accent is a bit different, so it was very helpful to have a local on our team.
We had three health agents, three nurses (including Rose and me), one auxiliary, Valmy, and a megaphone. (The megaphone was a valued team member!) We set up our table and the auxiliary, and the Haitian nurse streamed the babies to the right side for length and weight, and any child over the age of two came to Valmy and me for assessment.
Two hundred children later, and 38 admissions, five hours of kneeling, translating, sweating, crying babies, lifting and measuring, we had seen everyone.
There were far more children admitted than I anticipated. Living in the countryside these people have their own gardens and their own livelihood, but with all the political unrest over the years, the violence and natural disasters, their way of life has changed. We are also seeing huge numbers of Haitians moving to the larger metropolitan areas. Consequently, there are more malnourished children in the remote villages. So this is where we will be bringing Medika Mamba and nutrition education.
I was honored to participate with such an amazing team of Haitians. Their skills, knowledge, and understanding brings hope to the lives of the impoverished communities here. It’s truly something special to be a part of.