SEATTLE, Washington — The country of Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. It is home to 10,579,230 citizens. Haiti is exceptionally vulnerable to becoming a breeding zone for natural disasters, including a viral pandemic, for many reasons. However, one main factor is the country’s high poverty rate of 59% with 24% of its population living in extreme poverty. On March 19, 2020, Haiti reported its first case of the coronavirus. Haiti is more susceptible to the coronavirus because of its vulnerabilities; therefore, the non-government organization, Capracare is fighting COVID-19 with a response and plan of action.
Haiti’s Initial Response to COVID-19
Following the initial reported case of the coronavirus to the present day, all 10 “departments” located throughout Haiti have reported cases of COVID-19. The Haitian government quickly acted following the first case. Haiti stopped all commercial passenger flights and instigated a 14-day quarantine for all incoming individuals. Furthermore, it prohibited public gatherings, closed schools and factories and all citizens had to wear masks in public.
The government implemented a mandate to close factories. However, from an economic standpoint, it is difficult to shut down all of the factories in Haiti because of how impoverished the country is. Approximately half of the people in the country survive on less than $2 per day. So, a day of not being able to work is equivalent to a day of not being able to eat and provide food for one’s family. Unlike countries like the United States and Canada, the Haitian government is unable to provide its citizens with stimulus packages, food banks, remote learning and frequent COVID-19 testing.
COVID-19’s Impact on Haiti
Beginning in May, Haiti experienced a spike in coronavirus cases. Initially, Haiti was giving 20 COVID-19 tests each week for those with symptoms. Close to 10% of these tests were coming back as positive. In May, it had to increase testing to about 1,000 COVID-19 tests each week with a positive rate of 70%. There are two GHESKIO treatment facilities located in Port Au Prince, Haiti. By June 16, 2020, GHESKIO reported 520 individuals as testing positive for the coronavirus. Of these 520 patients, 15.2% (79 individuals) had to be hospitalized, 1.2% (6 individuals) had died and 83.7% (435 individuals) of patients were under observation at home via cell phones. As of September 30, there were 8,740 coronavirus cases in Haiti.
Capracare is a non-profit organization located in Haiti that aims to help communities located in Les Cayes, Haiti. This area is approximately four hours outside of Port Au Prince, Haiti. Capracare’s mission is to save lives and remodel local communities while simultaneously re-structuring and keeping a long-term workforce of local citizens.
It also works to minimize healthcare discrepancies that arise in schools and communities to give complete access to every healthcare service and provide professional development and methods of education to families in communities. Thus far, Capracare has been the sole Haitian driven “non-government grassroots organization” to introduce precautionary methods to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Capracare’s Response to COVID-19 in Haiti
Haiti’s vulnerability to both natural disasters and viral pandemics is well-known throughout the country. Therefore, Capracare is fighting COVID-19 with a response it created in February 2020 in order to handle the outbreak. Capracare prepared an action plan that is composed of three main phases. These phases include “Planning and Prevention, Pandemic Response, Post-Pandemic and a dedicated COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund.” The post-pandemic and COVID-19 relief fund will aid possible future damages directly resulting from COVID-19. The relief fund will also enforce a vital plan aimed at helping with recovery and with other severe medical issues.
In February, Capracare formed an additional cohort to properly train local citizens to turn them into community healthcare workers. The training Capracare provided these individuals with taught them proper handwashing skills and hygiene habits. Additionally, Capracare dispersed 1,000 masks, created and distributed hand soaps and hand sanitizers throughout the community. Furthermore, it managed door to door community outreach programs weekly in order to educate them on how to prevent the spread of the virus and promote the severity of it. It also hosted educational classes for small groups of students to help keep them educated while out of school.
Stress Impact Assessment
Capracare also created a “COVID-19 Knowledge, Support, and Perceived Stress Impact Assessment.” This assessment helps determine the degree of “preparedness and knowledge of the community pertaining to COVID-19.” The results showed that 32.4% of the individuals who took the survey felt anxiety. Additionally, 41.7% of the individuals felt symptoms of depression as a result of the coronavirus. The results of this assessment showed Capracare how important it is for the organization to also provide mental health support as well as physical support to the citizens in Les Cayes. Therefore, Capracare is offering mental health services that specifically help individuals deal with anxiety and depression.
Capracare is fighting COVID-19 in Haiti by being proactive and diligent in protecting both the country and the citizens of Haiti from the coronavirus. Capracare has been able to fill a decent gap that the Haitian and outside governments have not addressed. Its response helps prevent the country’s existing disadvantages from limiting citizen’s access to the care that they deserve.
– Amanda Kuras