(PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization in has trained more than 2,800 community health workers in Haiti, including 2,700 community health agents and 162 community health nurses and auxiliary nurses as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing much-needed support to the Ministry of Health and the country’s Multisectoral Pandemic Management Commission of COVID-19.
In addition, PAHO conducted meetings with Community leaders including voodoo priests, catholic priests, pastors, and traditional birth attendants to provide them with accurate information and communication messages about COVID-19 such as protective measures, treatment centers and mostly the continuity of essential services in health care institutions.
Community health workers trained were equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and communication support such as megaphones and batteries, according to a report from the PAHO office in Port-au-Prince. 221 megaphones, gloves, facial masques and hand sanitizers were also distributed.
This outreach in Haiti is crucial because it helps touch the hard-to-reach communities and those who believe in traditional medicine.
Training and equipment is part of PAHO’s extensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Haiti, which focuses on surveillance, laboratory improvements, case management, and risk communication to engage with communities and provide information about the disease.
Haiti has 50 investigation teams and 299 contact tracing teams in operation throughout the country, with call centers and data analysis teams active in each department.
COVID-19 is not the first epidemic to have hit Haiti in recent years.
Innovative initiatives developed during the country’s fight against cholera have been repurposed to tackle COVID-19. For example, field nurses from the Labomoto program, a testing initiative designed to ensure the sampling and transportation of suspected cholera cases to laboratories for testing, have been deployed to help carry out sampling of COVID-19 suspected cases in hard-to-reach areas and transport to the labs for PCR testing.
In February, Haiti’s National Laboratory received training and equipment from PAHO to set up diagnosis of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with kits to collect samples, and reagents for 9,000 PCR tests.
That capacity is under expansion to 8 regional laboratories in Haiti; 5 of them can now test for the virus themselves through the Gen-Xpert platform, thus decentralizing testing and ensuring quicker turnaround, the report said.
To ensure continuity of care in non-COVID hospitals and health centers, PAHO has provided support for the set-up of early detection measures (triage and an isolation space for patients awaiting transfer to a COVID center) to 143 institutions, and provided equipment including thermometers, oximeters, oxygen concentrators, and PPE.
PAHO also supported training for the National Ambulance Center and for private ambulance companies on safe transport of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, which included provision of protective equipment.
Essential health services have not been forgotten in the response, including training of 107 health care providers of prenatal, infant and postnatal case on infection prevention and control measures during the pandemic, the report said.