March 25th, Lent 5. Mr. Harry Rosser introduced Dr. Jim Hyde, Associate Professor Emeritus at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Hyde discussed "Promoting Individual and Population Health in Post Earthquake Haiti: The Risk of Compassion Fatigue."
Why Haiti? This already fragile country was dealt a catastrophic blow in January 2010 when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, the country's capital. It was this region's worst earthquake in 200 years. Haiti is approximately 220 miles from Florida. In addition, the United States has a long history with this culturally rich country and there are large Haitian-American communities, especially in Miami, New York and Boston.
The work in Haiti is similar to that of other underserved areas. There are numerous organizations involved and billions of dollars have been raised to assist the people of Haiti. One of the main challenges is the distribution of resources to those in need. Infrastructure that was inadequate before the earthquake has been devastated to be practically non-existent. Dr. Hyde and his group at Tufts, which endorses a multidisciplinary approach, are involved in a town called Milo in northwest Haiti at the Catholic Hospital. This 40 bed health facility received approximately 650 victims of the earthquake. Certainly, it is a huge understatement that the request for aid was far beyond their available resources.
Dr. Hyde's presentation was followed by a rich dialogue regarding the enormous task of addressing the monumental needs of this shaken country and the challenges of working with a government that lacks infrastructure. Haiti's biggest challenges right now are major public health issues which involve assuring the availability of clean water, adequate food supply and sanitation. The treatment of illnesses i.e. cholera, dengue fever, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV is imperative. One interesting observation is that many Haitians have cell phones that can be used as both outreach and educational tools.
Because of the enormous needs, the risk of compassion fatigue is real. Dr. Jim Hyde suggested focusing on that which we as individuals and/or groups can address realistically.
submitted by Yvonne Gomez-Carrion