Working Tèt Ansanm to Build a Stronger Health Care System in Northern Haiti
Wendy Taylor, Konbit Sante Cap-Haitien Health Partnership
At Konbit Sante, we believe one key to improving access to quality health care for all people in northern Haiti involves supporting sustainable improvements to the Haitian health system. That is our mission. To that end, Konbit Sante staff and volunteers work in collaboration with the Haitian Ministry of Health and other partners to build local capacity in all aspects of the health system — from door-to-door community outreach programs, to strengthening community health centers, to improving care at the regional referral hospital.
We approach our work knowing that we do not have all of the answers, and in fact, Haitian problems need Haitian solutions. We view our Haitian colleagues as full and capable partners, and we understand that by putting our heads together (tèt ansanm) we can make more progress than any of us working alone.
Because we believe that our priorities need to respond to local needs, we are guided by assessments and listening to the community, and focusing on the areas our Haitian partners have identified and are committed to improving and where we believe we can bring sufficient financial and non-financial resources to help make a real difference.
We focus on the strengthening the “building blocks” that any health system needs in order to provide high quality care to the community it serves — an adequate and well- trained workforce; good quality service delivery; effective management systems; decent infrastructure (water, electricity, and facilities); adequate and appropriate supplies, medicines and equipment; and a capacity to measure and evaluate progress.
Because we believe in sustainability, we choose to support Haitian healthcare institutions, rather than create parallel systems of care because they will ultimately be responsible to care for their own communities.
Today we have four principal healthcare partners: a public hospital (Justinian University Hospital) and health center (Hospital Fort St Michel), and a private hospital (Haitian Convention Baptist Hospital) and health center (ULS). We support the country’s efforts to regulate NGOs, and strive to operate in full compliance with the laws and regulations.
“Extraordinary people are doing extraordinary things that are making a huge impact in northern Haiti, and we would like to introduce you do just a few of them.” — Nathan Nickerson, executive director of Konbit Sante in the 2016 annual report.
One of the most successful strategies we’ve employed is to identify civil servants who are qualified, committed, and honest “champions of positive change” and build capacity around them. Staff and volunteers from the US provide technical assistance; assist with identifying needs, brainstorm feasible solutions, provide continued education, and supply material resources that help our Haitian partners do their jobs effectively.
Konbit Sante began in April 2000 as the Greater Portland International Health Initiative (GPIHI). The original organizers consisted of Portland-area health care professionals, business people, and others, many of whom had previously been involved in international programs in less developed parts of the world. Portland and Cap-Haitian have been official sister cities since 2003.