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World Child House Project - AMDA Haiti Collaboration: Supporting Orphanages in Haiti

Publication date:2020-06-18
 
By Kanako Morita
(Head of World Child House Project,
AMDA-registered Disaster Relief Coordinator)

 
Greetings and thank you so much for your continued assistance toward AMDA’s activities. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Kanako Morita, head of World Child House Project. When I am not engaged in the World Child House, I maintain my regular job as a field-epidemiology researcher at Nagasaki University’s Institute of Tropical Medicine in Japan. Through this article, I would like to shed light on the difficult circumstances of orphanages in Haiti and explain how our project is trying to resolve issues around them.

My personal connection with AMDA began in 2010 when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti. Ever since, I’ve had a good fortune to work with AMDA president Dr. Shigeru Suganami until present. In the aftermath of the catastrophic quake, I started to involve myself with a series of AMDA’s disaster reconstruction efforts which included a youth sports exchange program and a prosthetic limb project. While the former was intended to have boys and girls from three countries, namely, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Japan to deepen their mutual understanding through sports, the latter was aimed at providing artificial limbs to those who lost their arms or legs in the calamity. Also, at the time of 2016 Hurricane Matthew, I was dispatched as a disaster relief coordinator to respond to a cholera outbreak.

For the last 10 years, I have worked hard to publicize the plight of the impoverished people in Haiti through academic journals and conferences. I try to make use of such opportunities to let people know of the reality with which the marginalized have been faced.
 

About the World Child House Project:

Last year, I told Dr. Suganami the stories of Haitian orphanages currently finding themselves difficult to supply sufficient food to children. I explained to him what I saw with a glimmer of hope he would provide tips to this ongoing problem. After listening earnestly to my words, he said they would deserve help, only if I could support them rightly.

He added that the assistance should not be a condescending one, but an offering that conveys my wish to be of help to them. In the end, it was decided that his organization (AMDA) and ours would work together for an altruistic cause.

In addition to many years of political instability, Haiti’s precarious social infrastructure exacerbated the consequences of the 2010 quake which claimed 316,000 lives. Coupled with the endemic cholera in recent years, people’s growing frustrations have been directed at the current regime, resulting in mass protests. Now, shootings take place daily and the crime rate has been soaring. They are indeed the reflection of the anguish of those who are made to persevere inconveniences in life, such as closures of city offices, banks, supermarkets and airports.
 

Pre-surveys:

Prior to the project, we conducted pre-surveys from early to mid-August 2019 at three orphanages in Port-au-Prince, namely, Francois orphanage, COVNAH orphanage and Maison orphanage. Meanwhile, the surveys were also conducted at five primary schools in southern provinces where interviews and workshop were held for the teachers.

The Francois orphanage had been faced with an imminent food shortage due the withdrawal of a foreign aid organization which used to provide support. Its decision to pull out of Haiti was on account of the country’s worsening social security in the last few years. As a result, children had been forced to live under inadequate sanitary conditions, making them increasingly prone to illnesses. In an environment without basic bedding such as proper mattresses or beds, even a common cold could sometimes get serious.

What lies behind all of the maladies is chronic malnutrition. As is the case, it is not surprising to find respiratory infections, lice and skin problems being persistent among the children. Whereas, in the southern provinces, none of the students we surveyed had such issues.
 

Assistance in Port-au-Prince:

Urgently responding to the said circumstances, we donated food items and other necessities to the three orphanages during 26 December 2019 to 31 January 2020. Likewise, we gave sanitary improvement guidance to children on how to wash hands and bathe properly. They were also taught what precautions could be taken against cholera infections.

Among the children was seven-year-old Ms. Yolaine who said she was happy to see us arrive and wished she could receive a pretty pair of clothes the next time.

On 3 January, AMDA Haiti chairperson Dr. Mac Keven Frederic visited the three orphanages to see children’s health conditions. Despite the fact that there wasn’t ample food, the children were cheerfully devouring a traditional rice dish.

Other than the above, the project donated more than 1,000 pens provided by several donors from Japanese medical schools last August. The donation was to thank children for their cooperation toward our research and was partly regarded as their academic assistance.

 

Field epidemiology survey at each orphanage:

During the field survey at each orphanage in early February, we interviewed staff and heads of the facilities to observe how children were coping with their daily lives. We wanted to assess the conditions of the buildings as well. One of the orphanage directors claimed how nice it would be to have the whole building refurbished.

One idea that arose was to make a vegetable garden in the court of one of the facilities. It was suggested by a 15-year-old boy who said making a vegetable garden would help complement the food supply. After several meetings, it was decided that a two-year project would be launched at the Francois orphanage which has the biggest schoolyard of the three.
 

The need for improving food self-sufficiency:

While the veg patch project had been up and running in the Francois, what surfaced was the reality of other orphanages that had no choice but to rely on meagre food supplies. As the last August survey showed, the Francois orphanage head Mr. Josepf said, “A consistent measure should be put in place to improve our food self-reliance, because the chronic malnutrition is the cause of most of the maladies.” Likewise, strongly hoping for the continuation of the project, Ms. June of the Maison orphanage stressed how urgent it is for children to be provided with enough food.
 

COVID-19 health promotion initiative:

Having the spread of COVID-19 in the Caribbean region in sight, we held a meeting, with AMDA Haiti’s Dr. Frederic in attendance, to discuss countermeasures against the threat. As a result, all participants agreed that a system should be established to allow a concerted effort by several entities such as Haitian Global Health Alliance (GHESKIO), main hospitals in Port-au-Prince and medical teams from neighbouring Cuba. We also shared precautionary practices with AMDA Haiti’s local staff, which included social distancing, the use of face masks and hand-wash.
 

The future of Haiti and the World Child House Project:

On 29 April, as we headed for the Francois orphanage to give guidance on COVID-19, children were excited to report to us that banana trees and spinach were sprouting in the vegetable garden. The sprouts of carrots, radish and peas were yet to come.

Currently, the infant mortality rate in Haiti remains high in which 52.66 babies die per 1,000 births. It is true that the circumstances surrounding children have been at risk in this country, and that most of the media coverage tends to lean on the negative side of things. On one hand, I have to say that Haiti’s social capital has enormous strength. Had it not been for their solid human bonds and trust, I wouldn’t have been able to support them remotely from Japan.

AMDA owes to the strong human relationships for the successful decade it had plodded in Haiti. And in fact, it could not have been what it is now without the support of compassionate donors who helped the organization pave its way. It is beyond words to express my gratitude.

World Child House Project is now trying to work with the Japanese Embassy in Haiti to set up a clinic for mothers and children under the Japanese foreign ministry’s grass-roots assistance initiative. We are eager to push our agenda as there are many other plans and ideas we wish to propose.

Last but not least, I sincerely hope you take an interest in saving the lives of the children through our comprehensive assistance. Your continued support would be greatly appreciated. 
 

Comments from my partners:

Dr. Mac Keven Frederic (Chairperson, AMDA Haiti)

“Kanako and I have worked on many occasions since the 2010 earthquake. Thanks to Dr. Suganami’s assistance, what led us to launch the vegetable garden project in February was the food donation we did at the end of last year for 100 orphans residing in three orphanages. Kanako has always stood by the side of us Haitians for the last 10 years and has worked as an excellent project manager. I have learned a lot from her and am willing to work with her in the years to come.” 
 

Ms. Mutsumi Shinke (Ex. AMDA High School Club Member, Master of Development Practice Program, the University of Queensland Graduate School)

 “I had the privilege of taking part in the sports exchange program in 2010 where students from Haiti, Dominican Republic and Japan gathered to deepen mutual understanding through soccer. I was deeply moved especially at the time when we visited the United Nations headquarters, namely, the UNICEF headquarters, in New York during the trip. I still recall very clearly a scene where one participant from Haiti was tearfully begging to others not wanting to go home. After that, it came to me as a shock to learn the despairing reality of the country in which there was literally nothing for the young people. Through my years at AMDA High School Club and in college, I deepened my knowledge about developing countries and the complexity of issues surrounding them. But never did I forget the things the Haitian students taught me during that precious exchange we had. I am now studying development practice at the University of Queensland Graduate School in Australia. Although my goal is to pursue a career in the field of international cooperation, I have been constantly pondering over what I can do, while realizing how difficult it can be to apply ideals and theoretical approaches to pragmatic matters. To this regard, I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with Ms. Morita and getting myself involved with the World Child House Project. I have known her for 10 years and have always been grateful for what she has done.”


 
 
    •  Haiti
    •  2020

 
 
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