The following is an update from CBF field personnel Nancy and Steve James who minister in Haiti. The Jameses are personnel co-commissioned by both CBF and American Baptist Churches USA.
The Ebenezer Cholera Treatment Center had experienced a very low mortality rate, unusual for a small rural community health center that had heretofore been inexperienced and ill equipped for treating cholera. Doctors Without Borders had helped the clinic respond to the cholera outbreak. Their combined efforts saved the lives of almost 2,000 gravely ill cholera patients. Doctors Without Borders had brought the expertise, supplies, personnel, and structure needed to effectively combat this deadly yet easily treatable and preventable disease.
The cholera prevention program in the surrounding communities had making a huge impact in dramatically decreasing the incidence of cholera. Now, the numbers of gravely ill patients were diminishing daily. It was time for Doctors Without Borders to leave Ebenezer and close the cholera treatment center. Dr. Nadine, the Swiss doctor in charge, wanted to meet with Ebenezer’s medical director, Dr. Emmanuel Mareus, to inform him of the decision to close the center.
In keeping with the spirit of collaborative decision-making characteristic of the Ebenezer Health Center, Dr. Mareus asked Dr. Nadine if she would mind meeting with the entire Ebenezer staff, rather than just with himself. Cholera treatment had involved every staff member in one way or another, and they had all worked very hard in their respective roles, sacrificially volunteering long hours without pay to serve those in need. Dr. Mareus wanted everyone to hear what Dr. Nadine had to say. She agreed, and a full staff meeting was called.
After Dr. Nadine’s presentation on the state of cholera in the country and Doctors Without Borders plans to consolidate into one central treatment center for the north, Dr. Mareus asked to speak. First, he wanted to thank everyone, especially Doctors Without Borders, for their vital help in combating cholera.
He continued, addressing Dr. Nadine. “We Haitians know that cholera was brought to Haiti by foreigners, but that does not mean that cholera is not a Haitian disease. Cholera is going to be with us long after the foreign health groups leave our country. Cholera is a Haitian problem and must be solved by us Haitians. We thus cannot agree to close the Ebenezer Cholera Treatment Unit after Doctors Without Borders leave us. We are going to keep it open with God’s help, for we know the people have come to depend on us for their care, especially as they continue to suffer from cholera.” We all shook hands gratefully as we said goodbye to Dr. Nadine.
Since Doctors Without Borders pulled out two months ago, the Ebenezer Cholera Treatment Unit has admitted and treated over 200 cholera patients, with no deaths. Thank God!
Note: The Ebenezer Clinic is a small community health center in Upper Limbe near the Christian University of North Haiti and is affiliated with the Haitian Baptist Convention.