WASHINGTON – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says that it has trained more than 2,800 community health workers in Haiti, including 2,700 community health agents (ASCP) and 162 community health nurses and auxiliary nurses as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Washington-based PAHO said the training provided “much-needed” support to Haiti’s Ministry of Health and the French-speaking Caribbean country’s Multisectoral Pandemic Management Commission of COVID-19.
In addition, PAHO said it 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.”
According to a report from the PAHO office in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, community health workers trained were equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and communication support, such as megaphones and batteries, 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,” said PAHO, stating that training and equipment are part of its 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.”
PAHO said 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.
As of August 11, PAHO said Haiti has reported 7,649 cases of COVID-19, with 183 deaths, and 4,982 people who have recovered.
COVID-19 is not the first epidemic to have hit Haiti in recent years.
According to PAHO, innovative initiatives developed during the country’s fight against cholera have been repurposed to tackle COVID-19.
For example, PAHO said field nurses from the Labomoto programme, 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, PAHO said 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.
PAHO said that capacity is under expansion to eight regional laboratories in Haiti.
It said five of them can now test for the virus themselves through the Gen-Xpert platform, “thus decentralizing testing and ensuring quicker turnaround.”
PAHO said it, in coordination with International Organization of Migration (IOM), has also supported the local authorities to set up the COVID-19 border surveillance, “assuring detection and testing of symptomatic suspected cases, and quarantine facilities for suspected cases at the ports of entry on the border with the Dominican Republic, training their staff and providing medical supplies and protective equipment.”
To manage the safe care of those with COVID-19, PAHO has provided support with training on infection prevention and control to staff (medical staff and support staff) from both COVID and non-COVID health centers, and on oxygen therapy to medical staff.
So far, 1,830 health care workers have been trained on infection prevention and control measures, including the appropriate use of PPE, and 642 medical staff have been trained in providing oxygen therapy.
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.
The health organisation has 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.