Disease Prevention

The Right Medicines at the Right Time Protect Vulnerable Babies in Haiti

Dr. Rony Saint-Fleur works to treat the smallest patients at Justinian University Hospital, babies so small that an infection could prove deadly if medicines aren’t administered quickly. Sometimes the doctor sees tiny babies with infections commonly transmitted during childbirth, which can cause severe illness as bacteria multiply. Abnormal body temperature, difficulty breathing, and fatigue are some of the symptoms a newborn may experience as the infection worsens.

“Untreated, these newborns can develop sepsis or meningitis and die,” Dr. Saint-Fleur explained.

With the right medicine at the right time, the infection can be treated. And the sooner, the better the outcome for the newborn.

Bacterial infections can be passed from mother to baby during childbirth. Symptoms such as fever and vomiting can worsen, and even become fatal if left untreated. (Photo courtesy of Valerie Baeriswyl)

Dr. Saint-Fleur is a pediatrician at Justinian University Hospital, Haiti’s second largest hospital, located in Cap-Haitien. The 300-bed public hospital is one of three residency programs in Haiti that partners with Konbit Sante, a nonprofit working to improve the quality of health care in Cap-Haitien. Since 2001, the organization has worked with Haiti’s existing public health system to provide health services to vulnerable communities.

A reported 60 percent of people lack access to basic healthcare in Haiti, a country with the highest infant mortality rate in the western hemisphere, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

With an emphasis on pediatrics, Konbit Sante has assisted the hospital in securing essential medicines and supplies to care for children who need it most. Specifically requested medical aid from Direct Relief has been a central part of this partnership.

Dr. Rony Saint-Fleur, a pediatrician at Justinian University Hospital, has played an important role in requesting medicines from Direct Relief to treat newborns with bacterial infections in Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Valerie Baeriswyl)

“Direct Relief’s donations have had an enormous impact on the health and well-being of children who receive care here in our pediatric ward,” Dr. Saint-Fleur said.

Medicine like gentamicin and azithromycin, antibiotics commonly used to treat bacterial infections, have been administered to newborns regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. While the over-the-counter cost of the drug is out of reach for many families, donations from Direct Relief ensure that Justinian University Hospital can deliver basic, yet essential, care to children who need it most.

Dr. Saint-Fleur, a staff member at Konbit Sante, administers medical care to a young patient. Health care is provided, regardless of one’s ability to pay, and the nonprofit is dedicated to strengthening Haiti’s existing public health system. (Photo courtesy of Valerie Baeriswyl)

For more than nine years, Direct Relief has worked with Konbit Sante to support their life-saving work. As the central hospital for a region populated by more than 900,000 people, JUH is frequently in need of quality medicines, like IV solutions and antibiotics. Meeting the needs of such a large volume of patients, many of whom cannot afford to pay, requires a reliable supply chain.

Konbit Sante works directly with four Haitian health facilities that include two hospitals and two health clinics. The network provides care to more than 300,000 people in and around Cap-Haitien, Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Valerie Baeriswyl)

The long shelf life of medicines from Direct Relief is deeply valued, allowing for a level of planning that’s difficult to achieve in a resource-poor environment, according to Dr. Saint-Fleur. Direct Relief remains committed to equipping healthcare providers with much-needed, quality medicine and supplies.

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