Make a cursory search of mobile clinics in Haiti and you will come up with thousands of results. I searched the first three pages and found clinics operated by mainly US faith based charities and a couple of international medical NGOs such as International Medical Corps, the International Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) but apart from one clinic initiated by Sophia Martelly, there was no mention of any Haitian led mobile clinics. And its not just in health related projects that Haitians are presented solely as passive receivers reliant on western donors. Haiti is at the center of the ‘white saviour industrial complex’, especially faith based charities from the US. I’ve always wondered about white faith groups that have no relationship with Black people in their own country, [the USA] yet travel thousands of miles to ‘save Haitians from all manner of miseries and see them only as infantile victims!
What I have tried to do over the past 10 months in reporting on health, education and housing, is to present a different Haitian narrative which puts Haitians at the center as initiators, organizers and participants. I believe I’ve achieved this through actively participating with people and organizations I’ve written about but at the same time, removing myself from the story. This is how I met Dr Theordore Rony Brown. I was sick, my host Rea Dol, introduced me to Dr Brown, we had a conversation about a mobile clinic in Camp Canaan organised by Rea. I discovered Dr Brown had organized two clinics at a home for the elderly where the family at Solidarity House regularly volunteered.
Dr Brown graduated from Université Quisqueya Medical School in 2010. Initially he was a reluctant medical student having gone under parental pressure. Nonetheless he was one of the highest performers in his class which he explained was the primary reason behind his decision to create a movement of Haitian doctors and nurses under Soli Medic Haiti – an all volunteer medical project which runs outreach and community health clinics across Haiti.
I was very fortunate to pass my exams with no problem but this was not the same for many of my friends who had to repeat and worry about how to pay their school fees. Because of this I felt blessed and decided that I would give back to my community by volunteering my services in addition to my official paid work.
I started with a friend running a mobile clinic at my mother’s church because there are many people who cannot pay for attending the doctor or buying medicines. We run the clinic every two months and we are always full with hundreds of people. The way we fund this is by giving 10% of our salary and asking our families and friends for support. We run the clinic every two months.
Before that, after the earthquake I was part of a group of 26 Haitian doctors and nurses who went to Corail near Okay for a three day mobile clinic. We had received a letter from a local priest that they needed help after the earthquake so spoke to a local deputee who agreed to help. We hired a car ourselves then set up three mobile clinics in the town.
Another mobile clinic I have been involved with is in Limbe near OKap at the Hospital Saint Jean. Here we were dealing with terrible motorcycle accidents as this is the main form of travel but the bikes are in bad condition.
Last week I visited the elderly home at Azil Communal to deliver some personal care and medical supplies a friend had brought over from the US. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was impressed with the cleanliness and general organization of the home. There are 86 residents- [45 women] ranging from mid 60s to the oldest who is over 100. Although the residents and patients are well cared for the funding for the home provided by the local government is grossly lacking and it is only due to the dedication of the unpaid staff and volunteers like Rea Dol, Marie Anise Flaurantin and Dr Brown. Dr Brown agreed
They do very good work at Azil Communal but they’re short of capacity and resources. For example the patients are elderly and many are diabetic or have high blood pressure or TB or in some cases all three of these. Yet all the patients eat the same food. There is no funding for special diets according to the illness. This is a very bad situation but there is little that can be done without more government funding.
This is a general problem in Haiti. The government doesn’t pay doctors and nurses on time. Sometimes in the public hospitals and homes like Azil, there is insufficient equipment or for example, no gas for surgery. But its not just the government to blame. I have a complaint against the foreign NGOs who come to Haiti with expired medicine and expect us to be happy about this. This is wrong, we need medicines but not medicines discarded by Americans.
**Dr Theodore Rony Brown is the Chief Practitioner for nights at a private hospital in Pernier. He is also a consultant physician at Kay La Sante in Delmas