We are all struggling to process the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has already brought to our lives and, even more worryingly, what might be coming in the next few weeks and months. In that context, our most important wish is that you and your families stay safe and well.
We know that there is a great deal of curiosity regarding how things are developing in Haiti and we wanted to provide a quick update for all of you.
Thus far, there has not been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Haiti, but there are many confirmed cases across the border in the Dominican Republic. Haiti has closed its border and stopped almost all international flights. While these steps may slow the onset of the virus in Haiti, we know it is only a matter of time until there will be a spike in cases.
We are using this period to prepare our staff and clinics as best as we can for what will likely be a very difficult situation once the virus becomes established. Haiti suffers from every issue (but multiplied) currently facing the United States and Europe: lack of testing kits, an extreme shortage of masks and sanitizers, as well as very few hospital beds that are equipped to handle the kind of extreme respiratory complications we saw in China and are seeing in Italy.
However, due to the worldwide nature of this crisis, it is very unlikely that international support will be available for Haiti once cases appear in significant numbers. The reality in Haiti is that many family members cohabitate in small spaces; there is almost no ability to store significant quantities of food at home; and most Haitians live in very crowded urban neighborhoods with poor sanitation. All this suggests that COVID-19 is likely to be absolutely devastating.
With great urgency, we are doing our part to prepare for the imminent arrival of the virus in Haiti. We are working closely with the Ministry of Health as it finalizes its operational plans. And, with our clinic staff, we are putting processes in place including an extreme emphasis on handwashing, patient screening, and enhanced training on the importance of social separation. In addition to that, we are working to source supplies such as masks, thermometers, sanitizers, and medicine from as many possible sources as we can during this time of extreme medical supply scarcity.
We plan to keep you updated regarding our efforts and look forward to the date when we can all speak about this global pandemic in the past tense.
We thank you for your support and wish you and your families the best in this difficult time.