In Haiti violence has escalated since armed opponents overran the northern city of Gonaives in early February. Anti government protests spiralled in late 2003 and turned increasingly fierce.
Sister Ellen of the Daughters of Charity, CRUDEM hospital, Milot (65 beds and a Nutrition Centre), near Cape Haitien, which the Order’s American Association has been involved in helping, writes of the concerns she and her staff share for their patients:
Haiti, February 04
Thank you for your prayers. We need them. Everyone here at the hospital is okay, thank goodness.
We have no police here in Milot but we do have a group of pro-Aristide supporters patrolling and guarding against the anti-Aristide group who are some miles away. We are staying open as long as our staff can get here and for as long as we have medicine, medical supplies and fuel for the generator. Right now, we are taking all emergency Cesarean sections for the hospital Justinien in Cap Haitien. Until yesterday, they did not have any electricity. We can handle their labour and delivery needs but do not have a surgeon for other emergencies. On some days, when the roads are safer, we have many patients coming to the clinics. We have added security at the hospital.
We are in good spirits and we stand united with the hospital staff in trying to help the sick and injured from our area. We are trying to prepare for best-case and worst-case possibilities.
Project CRUDEM (Center for the Rural Development of Milot), a mission in Milot, northern Haiti, was named as one of the 100 Projects of the Holy Father for the Year of Charity, 1999.
Milot and its neighbouring settlements have a population of 25,000. They are 12 miles from Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita annual income of about $250 and the highest infant and maternal mortality rate. Almost 20% of children die before the age of two; malaria and tuberculosis are still common. Few people have access to electricity or drinkable water; less than half can read.
The hospital was inaugurated in 1986, with 12 beds, a pharmacy, laboratory, X-ray, delivery and operating rooms, and an adjacent Nutrition Centre.
A second floor addition was recently added thanks to funds provided by the American Association of the Order, and a separate paediatric division was donated by members of the Order in St Louis, Missouri. The hospital now has a total capacity of 65 beds and has opened a second operating room. The Nutrition Centre serves two free meals daily for up to 100 malnourished preschoolers. An educational programme is provided for the children between their mealtimes and another 500 primary school students receive their education under the auspices of CRUDEM. A programme for street children is also operating under the Order of Malta flag.
In 2002, over 30,000 patients were treated at the hospital, 1,000 operations were performed and more than 500 babies were delivered. The hospital now has a permanent staff of seven physicians and a dentist, and employs 98 people.
Helping the sick and poor in a mission hospital has great appeal and by November 2003, 450 volunteer doctors and nurses, including members of the Order, had been to CRUDEM, many of them more than once. Now, specialty teams go regularly, providing expert care otherwise only available in private hospitals in Port-au-Prince.
It is not unusual for patients to come from as far away as the capital, Port-au-Prince (a full day’s bus ride). But when a patient comes to CRUDEM, it is often only after surgical problems have been present for a long time. For example, cataracts are so common that they are not removed until the patient is almost totally blind.
About two-thirds of the hospital budget comes from donations through the CRUDEM Foundation in the United States, which has made CRUDEM a major factor in health care in Haiti. The Order’s three Associations in the United States actively support the CRUDEM foundation, whose Board includes members of the Order.