On Friday, I made my way downtown Cap Haitien to meet up with some of our DFID UK staff. We met at the Department of Health (MSPP) Office where they picked up vaccinations, coolers, & supplies for the day. We then drove to the bottom of the mountain that overlooks the city, parked the car, and began to walk. The community of Calvaire is blessed with the gift of stairs most of the way up the mountain. Most other places only have rocks and slick, dirty-packed paths. The stairs zig zag through houses, over and up, some parts slick from water and waste that are trickling down from homes and small shops. It is quite steep and we stop and take time to rest, catch our breath, and give our calves a break from the burning!
As we approach a small house, I hear someone on a megaphone advertising the post, calling for family members to bring their children to be vaccinated. The Community Health Agent for Calvaire, Nathalie, comes around the corner, greets us, and leads us into the building. We sit and rest, sweating from the climb, and watch as children begin to arrive.
Before the staff begins, our head nurse gets up and does a basic educational talk on what a vaccination is and what vaccines we have to give today. She answers questions, gathers vaccination cards, and then they begin.
An interesting thing about Haiti: almost everyone is a caregiver of some kind. Even amongst children, the small kids take care of the smaller kids. A little boy, 7 years old, waddles in carrying his 10-month old sister. He couldn’t have weighed 10 pounds more than she did! His Mom is working, he says, but eventually, with some coaxing, he leaves and comes back with his Grandmother, who comes in walking with a cane. It is a normal thing for the most able to work, which leaves the caregiving to the very young or the very old.
I was so impressed! Over 30 children received vaccinations, some for the very first time! The Community Health Agents even helped play with the kids to put them at ease with everything from sitting on the scale to receiving comfort after a needle poke. “Look! It’s like you are driving a car!” Nathalie says to a particularly scared little boy. He begins pushing the scale face like a horn, then turns and flashes her an adorable little grin.
These posts are providing vaccinations for children who would otherwise struggle to receive them. I spoke to a woman who brought her 11-month old twins to the post. She has two older children, both in school. “It is difficult for me to get the care my children need,” she says. “I can’t go up and down the mountain by myself with the boys, so to get them to a clinic, I have to have a family member with me.” The daily struggle to clothe, feed, and provide water for her children makes even spending the 25 minutes to climb down the mountain a near impossible task.
We are so pleased and SO THANKFUL to see our community workers meeting these needs. Health prevention will be key to these communities growing and thriving. For the next generation to thrive on this beautiful mountain overlooking Cap Haitien.