Partnership Update: UMCOR
UMCOR is a US registered non-profit 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering and providing humanitarian relief around the globe. UMCOR has partnered with Mercy & Sharing for many years donating much needed supplies such as diapers, health kits, school kits and most recently 245 layette kits for babies. UMCOR not only helps take care of our precious children but those also in desperate need, Haiti’s most vulnerable and abandoned children. Mercy & Sharing sends a HUGE thank you to UMCOR for partnering with us in our mission to protect and provide for Haiti’s most vulnerable children! UMCOR is in need of volunteers to create the kits they donate to Mercy & Sharing and others in need. To learn more, click here.
Examining Mental Health in Haiti
Al Jazeera | by Cath Turner | February 10, 2014.
The numbers associated with the Haiti earthquake in January 2010 are still hard to comprehend: more than two-million affected; 222,750 killed; 80,000 bodies missing; 188,383 houses destroyed or damaged; 1.5 million displaced.
In the aftermath of that devastating event, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) recognised the enormous emotional and psychological damage inflicted on millions of Haitians, and carried out an assessment of psychosocial needs. The staff interviewed 950 families in displacement camps over a four month period, from May to August of 2010.
Before the earthquake, there was no mental health system in the country. There was a great deal of social stigma surrounding mental health. “Psychologist” was a dirty word.
Alwrich Pierre Louis from IOM explains: “When we discuss mental health with them, the person says, ‘No, I don’t have any kind of problem, maybe it’s another thing. You think that I’m crazy but you’re wrong.
In the days and weeks and months after the earthquake, millions of Haitians were confronted with death, trauma, loss, grief, survivor guilt and fear.And for many, those still haven’t gone away.
Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in tent cities, four years after the quake. The IOM study revealed anxiety and depression are compounded by concerns about overcrowding, lack of clean water and facilities, fear of sexual assault, gangs and a lack of police.
IOM found thirty-two percent of those surveyed said they had experienced at least one of the three major distress indicators: panic attacks, serious withdrawal or suicide attempts.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the maximum, 60 percent of those interviewed said their pain level was 5.
When participants were asked to list their three main needs, more than 70 percent said housing, health was second, followed by work and security.
So where can Haitians go for help? What mental health services are available? The short answer is, not many.
IOM told Al Jazeera that mental health has never been a priority for the Haitian government and it still isn’t. 15 percent of its budget is allocated to health; less than 5 percent of that is spent on mental health.
This was painfully obvious when our crew visited a state-run mental health hospital in Port-au-Prince. According to Dr Louis Marc Jeanny Girard, the facility can only take in 112 patients, and more Haitian psychiatrists are needed across the board.
He says the most common conditions associated with the earthquake are agitation, delusional and bipolar disorders, epilepsy, schizophrenia and drug-related mental disorders.
One of the most persistent obstacles to better mental health services is deeply entrenched in Haitian culture: religion.
Alwrich from IOM explains “Maybe they don’t have the capacity or inclination to go see a psychologist. So instead, they go to see a person of voodoo.”
But mental health professionals say they’re committed to working with religious people because they have such large connections and influence in their communities. They are making inroads.
IOM staff say it took a devastating earthquake to push mental health out into the open and now there’s less stigma and more mental health support.
But hundreds of thousands of people still aren’t getting the help they need. There are growing pleas to the Haitian government to increase its investment in the mental health system and make it a priority. But no-one is sure if anyone is listening. #
Update from Susie Krabacher
I returned from Haiti last week and wanted to give you all an update. One of the main purposes of the trip was to make good on a few promises I made to the children at Mercy & Sharing Village orphanages. On my last trip we had a children’s meeting in which the kids talk about kid stuff. We talk about everything from silly to serious things. On our agenda last week were the following topics:
- The older boys feel like the littler boys don’t respect their space. And they want to draw a line down the middle of their dorm room so the younger boys have to stay on their side. Ugh! I guess I knew that was coming. The little kids want to copy everything the older boys do. I find it adorable, but it can annoy one if it were all day, every day. So we are putting some rules in place that will give the older kids a little space to read and study in peace and quiet.
- The children at the orphanage asked to visit another orphanage on my last trip. So last week we visited an orphanage of 35 children in a remote area near in Bon Repos. The children from both Mercy & Sharing and the orphanage in Bon Repos were very shy at first so the grown-ups stepped away to see if they would interact more freely. Wow! They started talking and within fifteen minutes it was clear they were going to be great friends. They asked lots of questions about their lives and school and the food they eat. During the ride back to the orphanage we talked about their new friends. They asked if we could invite them to come eat and play with us at our orphanage. I was delighted that they made new friends. But I was very proud of our children when they showed such concern because the children at the other orphanage did not have a kitchen or enough beds. Our children suggested that we ask them all to come live with us. So, so precious and sincere. I answered that we aren’t able to do that. I took the opportunity to explain how the people who support each of our children work very hard to make money so that they have a good home and plenty of food and medicine when they are sick. We talked about how, when they are grown-up, they will work hard to make money to care for themselves and help others just like all of our sponsors do for them. They had lots of questions like; “What will happen to us if our sponsor goes away?” I told them that I will ask you all to never go away.
- Some of the children wanted to come along on a trek up the mountain to the villages where many of our the elderly in our orphan sponsored “Widows Meal Program” are dwelling. We were very sad that one of the widows had passed away a few days before. We delivered the medicine needed by 2 of our friends who suffer from epilepsy.
I spent a few days in meetings with some wonderful Directors of Catholic Relief Services who have been so supportive of Mercy & Sharing. Then I met with the US Ambassador, Pamela White, who is working with the Government of Haiti to rebuild the “General Hospital” or the University Hospital. I met with our Medical Director, Dr. Leslie Agenor regarding some of the upcoming surgery requirements for some of the children with special needs. I had a meeting with the women of the Williamson Community to keep them updated on Mercy & Sharing’s work in the community. The meeting took a very serious tone, when 5 of the 20 women who attended spoke about a solicitor in the area who was encouraging women to give up their newborns to an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. Very disturbing. Possibly more on that later.
I am back home and trying very hard to raise funds for this year so that we continue to do the Lord’s work in Haiti. We have been so blessed by your support. The children and staff pray for you all every day and every night. That is one of the most amazing thing to me. They always ask questions about you all. Thank you, deeply for giving them someone to love and pray for.
From the Heart,