Our COVID-19 activities on La Gonave

Our COVID-19 activities on La Gonave

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dear Chad,

We just completed Phase 1 of our COVID-19 response plan.

We carried out awareness campaigns in 6 of the 11 communal sections that make up La Gonave and installed more than 80 hand washing stations throughout those six sections. We are in constant contact with our network of community leaders on the island, who continue to evaluate and report back on the situation and maintain the hand washing stations that were installed in their communities. We are in contact with staff at La Gonave’s only hospital and are a member of the COVID-19 emergency response committee that the mayors of Anse-a-Galets and Pointe-a-Raquette formed to respond to this emergency more effectively. The committee includes other elected officials, a representative from the Ministry of Public Health and the hospital in Anse-a-Galets, and various NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that work on the island.

Phase 2 of our plan includes training leaders in the five remaining communal sections of the island and quickly spreading awareness about the virus and distributing prevention materials there. If we are able to raise the funding needed, Phase 2 will also involve supporting the production and distribution of locally sewn masks, and a micro-grant initiative that will put funds directly in the hands of communities leading their own COVID-19 prevention efforts.

By investing in local leadership on the island for the past decade, we have been helping La Gonave prepare for moments just like these. With our community-driven approach to development and our strong network, we are able to support effective emergency response efforts and the following longer-term, recovery efforts in a way that does not compromise future development or resiliency, but instead strengthens local capacity. Increasing evidence and policy guidance have been pointing towards the importance of local leadership in development, crisis response, and post-crisis recovery and resilience. Roots of Development is uniquely situated to accompany the people of La Gonave in their fight against COVID-19.

COVID-19 and La Gonave

La Gonave is in a unique situation in terms of the potential spread and impact of COVID-19 across Haiti. As an island accessible only by boat, the virus may take more time in reaching the island than the rest of the densely populated and interconnected mainland. However, while that isolation may be an advantage in terms of delaying the arrival of COVID-19, it quickly becomes a disadvantage in terms of facing the threat of the virus once it arrives. La Gonave only has one full-service hospital, The Wesleyan Hospital in Anse-a-Galets. The hospital is currently equipped with 40 beds. As of mid-April, based on information obtained by Roots of Development from hospital management, the hospital was in possession of sufficient masks and gloves for staff but did not have sufficient eye protection. The hospital has minimal oxygen capacity (only enough for about 3 or 4 patients) and no ventilators. According to reports, there are only around 60 ventilators in the entire country (Haiti). Testing is not available on the island.

The geographical isolation of La Gonave makes it unlikely for medical reinforcement to arrive in the event of a surge of COVID-19 cases. Supply chain management for basic medical supplies on the island is a challenge in non-emergency times. With reduced movement, closed markets, and other limitations caused by the pandemic, La Gonave’s health systems will struggle to maintain supplies. La Gonave’s isolation as an island also makes it difficult for those with COVID-19 to seek treatment elsewhere.

La Gonave has long been socio-politically marginalized from the mainland. It was largely forgotten in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, and it is likely the same will occur during this emergency. On May 18th, there were 533 reported cases of COVID-19 in Haiti, including 21 deaths. The number of new cases is starting to quickly rise. 

“Haiti, spared a major coronavirus outbreak so far, now a ‘tinderbox’ set to ‘explode’.” – The Washington Post, 5/15/2020

It is essential that we, in partnership with our local partners (island leaders), use this time to educate as many citizens as possible, distribute necessary equipment, and prepare La Gonave for the impact of COVID-19.

Please continue to support our emergency efforts by making a donation today

Sincerely, 

Chad Bissonnette

Executive Director