Since Haiti’s magnitude-7.2-earthquake on Aug. 14, which struck the underserved Tiburon Peninsula, Build Health International has marshalled its staff, supporters and resources in Haiti and the U.S., where it is based, to help. The health care projects of the nonprofit BHI fared well in the recent temblor, which killed more than 2,200 people and injured nearly 12,300, but that isn’t the case for most of the hospitals and clinics in the region, struggling with poverty.
A public hospital in Pestel, not built by BHI, was badly damaged, but its solar microgrid system, recently installed by BHI, “stayed working the entire time,” says Jim Ansara, BHI’s managing director.
Since the quake, BHI’s local staff, joined by colleagues from its Beverly, Mass., headquarters, has repurposed an operating room for trauma and orthopedic surgery at Saint Boniface Hospital in Fond-des-Blancs, built by BHI. And they restored temporary power, primarily using generators, at the hard-hit public L’Hôpital Immaculée Conception in Les Cayes.
“We are in the process of getting government approval to move forward with a complete upgrade of the electrical system,” says Ansara, who co-founded the seven-year-old medical infrastructure builder with Dr. David Walton.
COVID-19 and the Delta variant are complicating the situation. Haiti has a low rate of vaccination, but BHI local staff got shots in the abutting Dominican Republic. BHI is sending its crews there, too, salary and expenses paid. Though BHI has a mandate for masks on all of its projects, local workers often have to be reminded to wear them.
The quake and Tropical Depression Grace on Aug. 16 also ruined crops, which is another humanitarian and health crisis in the making, says Ansara.