Global NGO Project HOPE Hails Progress on Reversing Stigma Against Haitians With Disabilities on 2nd Anniversary of Deadly Earthquake

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Project HOPE Rehab Center A Sustainable Model Crucial To Building A Stable Health System in Haiti

Haitian Amputee at Chanje Lavi Rehab Center

We are leveraging our successes in Haiti to continue strengthening the country's health system. We are working with a range of local partners to strengthen emergency medical care and disaster preparedness in rural communities.

Global NGO Project HOPE is highlighting the first free, comprehensive rehab (and prosthetic) facility in post-earthquake Haiti as a symbol of solidarity and life-changing hope for the people of Haiti, marking the second anniversary of the deadly quake on Thursday.

The rehabilitation facility at Adventist Hospital in Diquini, near Port-au-Prince, is known as “Chanje Lavi,” which means Changing Lives in Creole. The center, created by Project HOPE and partners, was hailed in 2011 by Haiti’s government disabilities agency as the only comprehensive, free rehab center in the country. Project HOPE, a US-based global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, says Chanje Lavi has helped thousands of patients in the past year alone. Residential facilities on site can allow patients in need to receive ongoing physiotherapy and prosthetic fittings, potentially accelerating their improvements.

“Clearly the earthquake was devastating by all definitions. Haiti had a fragile health care system and was a fragile country to begin with so the earthquake was the worst case scenario. The rehab center is a model for sustainability, which is crucial to building a more stable health infrastructure in Haiti,” said Jason Friesen, Project HOPE’s Country Representative in Haiti.

Chanje Lavi is a model integrated health program that supported and enabled the Adventist Hospital to become the leading orthopedic referral hospital nationwide. Initially treating earthquake victims, Chanje Lavi is now treating victims of traumatic injuries and chronically ill patients with rheumatoid arthritis and congenital defects such as club foot, among others. Care in the Center is complemented by home visits via community outreach, raising awareness about available services and addressing stigma to improve access and quality of life. To date, the rehab center has assisted over 4,000 patients and amputees with long-term chronic health needs. Developed with the support of international organizations like Project HOPE, Chanje Lavi will transition operations to the local Adventist Hospital in 2012.

“We are working with an array of local partners to raise awareness of disability and lessen the stigma against persons with disabilities and will be publishing a bilingual book on the subject in French and Creole to be distributed for free to over 5,000 people,” said Friesen.

“This innovative book is adapted to limited literacy in Haiti, using both an audio track and printed text, and telling the story of a woman’s rehabilitation journey. We hope it will serve as an inspiration to readers to seek services for themselves and others, and to improve the public's understanding of disabilities in general.”

Within the year following the earthquake, Project HOPE also distributed more than $60 million of medicines and medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in Haiti and along the border in the Dominican Republic. Repeated cholera outbreaks present an on-going challenge, including over 6,500 deaths to date. After the initial deadly outbreak in 2010, HOPE sent medical volunteers and enlisted the service of an international team of cholera experts to train local health care professionals.

“While the cholera outbreaks diverted resources to be focused on these acute crises and slowed progress in other areas. It is important to recognize the significant strides that Haitians have made in the reconstruction efforts. I was here right after the earthquake – about a week after, and I came back a year later to work here full-time and saw a noticeable difference. If you had never been to Haiti before you would think it wasn’t in very good shape, but when you have the perspective of what it was before and now, two years later, you can see definite, tangible progress. Of course, the country still faces immense challenges and still needs the support of the international community,” said Friesen.

Project HOPE specializes in building long-term capacity after the initial shock of man made or natural disasters has passed and has left a rich legacy of health infrastructure around the world, helping to establish hospitals and clinics, train health care professionals and assess needs in places as diverse as China and Iraq.

“We are leveraging our successes in Haiti to continue strengthening the country’s health system. Currently we are reaching out to the Ministry of Health, five Haitian medical schools, and the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (AMHE), to reform undergraduate medical education as Haiti does not produce enough doctors to meet the needs of its people. We are also working with a range of local partners to strengthen emergency medical care and disaster preparedness in rural communities,” said Courtney Guthreau, Project HOPE’s Regional Director for the Americas.

Project HOPE partnered with the U.S. Navy in the months after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010 to care for more than 1,000 Haitians aboard the hospital ship, USNS Comfort. In addition, HOPE provided volunteer doctors and nurses to support relief efforts at three separate hospitals throughout Haiti.

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 35 countries across five continents.

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Geraldine Carroll
Project Hope
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