April 7 is designated as World Health Day by WHO (World Health Organization). This year its focus is to ensure that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in their own community.
This is very relevant in the work Medical Missionaries does in Thomassique, Haiti, where we not only provide medical care in the town of Thomassique at St. Joseph Clinic, but also bring health care to those living in its outlying villages, through the establishment of local Community Health Centers, and weekly mobile clinics that visit their communities.
St. Joseph Clinic opened in 2007, becoming the only permanent medical facility serving Thomassique and its 6 major outlying villages, a total population estimated to be 125,000 or more. Previously, villagers in Thomassique had no access to medical care locally and would need to travel, mostly by foot, about 20 miles to reach a Clinic in nearby towns. The Clinic is open 5 days a week for general consults, and 24/7 for emergency and maternity care. In its first full year of operation, the Clinic treated more than 15,000 patients and assisted in about 300 births. Since then, those numbers have continued to grow each year.
We were aware that half of Thomassuque’s residents live in outlying villages that are 6 to 10 miles away from the Clinic. Residents were walking hours to get to the Clinic, sometimes with serious illnesses or to deliver babies, sometimes for minor illnesses such as a headache or upset stomach.
In 2010, Medical Missionaries started building a health care infrastructure in 6 outlying villages to provide care to people closer to where they live. Each of those villages now has a Com
munity Health Center tied to St. Joseph Clinic. Each Center provides basic health care, led by a Community Health Worker (CHW) who was trained by Clinic staff, and a Community Health Committee of local villagers who oversee the program.
Each week, weather permitting, medical staff from St. Joseph Clinic travels to one of the outlying villages to conduct a mobile clinic. When medical and surgical teams from the USA visit the Clinic, they also travel to outlying villages for mobile clinics.
There is a high rate of maternal and infant mortality in Haiti, with 75% of births taking place at home. One of our most important programs since the Clinic’s early days is its Maternity and Infant Care Program. Trained midwives are on the Clinic Staff to facilitate safe births, provide both prenatal and postnatal consultations, and education sessions on newborn health.
Since 2013, Medical Missionaries has been training Matwons (Traditional Birth Attendants) to work in the outlying villages to facilitate home births in a safer environment and with greater knowledge on how to help with safe deliveries. To date, 45 Matwons have been trained. In the last quarter of 2018 alone, 136 babies were born at St. Joseph Clinic, and the Matwons assisted with 773 births in outlying villages.
Medical Missionaries is grateful for all the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and other medical professionals who work diligently to improve health in the Thomassique region of Haiti’s Central Plateau, along with all our partners who make this work possible.