Madrid, Jul 5 (EFE).- Only 40 percent of Haiti’s 11.8 million inhabitants have access to health care and getting treatment for some illnesses depends on the ability to pay, the director of St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Port-au-Prince told EFE here.
Dr. Pascale Gassant and the hospital’s project coordinator, Marytza Beaubrun, are in Madrid for the 20th anniversary of Fundacion Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (Our Little Brothers and Sisters), which helps fund St. Damien.
While readily acknowledging that initiatives such as St. Damien’s mother-and-child center could not exist without international aid, they demanded a larger role for Haitians in finding solutions to the problems of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Haiti’s health care system is “very weak,” Gassant said, noting that less than 5 percent of the government budget is earmarked for health while “the WHO (World Health Organization) says that for a system to be capable of responding to the needs of the population, the minimum is 15 percent of the national budget.”
“Health indicators are in the red, with a very rate of adult and infant mortality, the public system doesn’t function, they are always on strike, they don’t have supplies, nor equipment, nor physicians,” she said.
All of that in the context of a “complex and very difficult situation” marked by “chronic political instability that has grown worse in the last 10 years and even more since they killed the president,” Gassant said, referring to the July 7, 2021, assassination of Jovenel Moise.
She pointed out that public institutions make up only 20 percent of the health care sector in Haiti.
“The great majority of people, when they get sick they resort to traditional medicine, which also isn’t free. The little they have, they spend there,” Gassant said. “There are pathologies that if you don’t have money you can’t get treated in the country.”
Given that “the state can’t do everything,” she advocated for more public-private initiatives.
“In St. Damien we continue bringing health and care to the people who most need it, we do it with innovation and a lot of resilience,” the director said.
Along those lines, Beaubrun called for international aid to be channeled to specific projects and initiatives, bypassing the Haitian government.
“Let those who want to donate come to learn about us and see what we do,” she said. “The model of sending money via the government and other institutions doesn’t work for Haiti. I see private initiatives that do it well, better than injecting money into the government.”
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos was founded in 1954 by the Rev. William Wasson, a Catholic priest from the United States working in Mexico, with a mission “to provide shelter, food, clothing, healthcare and education in a Christian family environment based on unconditional acceptance and love, sharing, working and responsibility.”
Soon after establishing a program in Haiti in 1988, NPH saw the need for a pediatric hospital and created St. Damien.