This week CCC’s Program Director, Rebecca, traveled back to Haiti. Read about her trip below:
This week I returned to Haiti to visit current CCC “See and Treat” sites in the North region. I also had the opportunity to attend a conference in Port Au Prince hosted by Haiti Sans Cervical Cancer, a group which aims to aggregate all of the stakeholders in the fight against cervical cancer.
Represented at the conference was the Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population (Public Health Ministry of Haiti or MSPP), the Society of Haitian Obstetrics and Gynecologists, the Haitian Group of Support Against Cancer, many Haitian doctors and nurses, and several international non-profit organizations. CureCervicalCancer is proud to be a part of this group which is the first of its nature in Haiti aiming to create a space for dialogue and an opportunity to work together to eradicate cervical cancer in Haiti.
Haiti has the highest incidence of cervical cancer of any country in the world, and cervical cancer represents the leading cause of cancer-related death for women in Haiti. Most women have no opportunity to receive the HPV vaccination, to be screened for cervical cancer, or to be treated appropriately if cervical cancer is diagnosed.
The MSPP is in the process of developing and implementing a national protocol for cervical cancer, and Dr. Reynold Grand- Pierre shared an outline of the protocol at the conference. It is important that CCC supports the MSPP goals and protocol, but I could not help but wonder how these goals will come to be achieved in such a complex and broken healthcare system.
On Wednesday, I headed to Cap Haitien to visit current CCC sites. At each site, I was greeted with doctors and nurses, previously trained and certified by CCC in “See and Treat”. I was pleased to find all of the CCC equipment in good condition and to witness the passion for providing “See and Treat” that the doctors and nurses expressed. The challenges of providing “See and Treat” that the doctors and nurses reported to me matched my previous expectations: lack of awareness, lack of education, lack of money, and lack of support. The women in Haiti need more education about cervical cancer screening. Preventative healthcare is not valued in Haitian culture, so it is imperative that they receive education to understand that cervical cancer is preventable if detected in early stages. More doctors, nurses, and community health workers need to be educated about cervical cancer so that they are empowered to offer screening, treatment, and education to the community. The hospitals lack the money to pay for the supplies for “See and Treat”, especially the carbon dioxide gas which allows the cryotherapy device to freeze the lesions. Finally, the Haitian doctors and nurses lack support from the MSPP both in funding and in management. The doctors and nurses have the desire to offer “See and Treat” and the women need “See and Treat”, but there are many holes in the system.
CureCervicalCancer has always prioritized the sustainability of our work. Our clinic sites in Haiti are fighting to achieve sustainability in a broken healthcare system. We are hopeful that the new plans set forth by MSPP will be successful in decreasing the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in Haiti. In the meantime, CureCervicalCancer will continue to utilize creativity, strategic partnerships, and simple cost-effective methods to achieve our mission of early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. As always, we are so grateful to our friends and supporters who make it possible for us to reach the women who need us the most.