By Maria Revelles, Francois Pierre-Louis Jr., PhD, and FlorcieTyrell
In Haiti, COVID-19 is adding to the woes of a population already suffering from increasing unemployment, economic inflation and criminal violence. More than 8,000 confirmed cases have been reported as of Aug. 31, and the national and local governments arefailing to respond to this crisis.
To fill the gap in northeast Haiti, a grassroots group has mounted an effective COVID-19 education and prevention campaign. Since mid-April, Organisation Peuple Œcuménique pour le Développement du Nord-Est (OPODNE) has been mobilizing our communities through its education and public health efforts.
OPODNE’s Work and Results
Since its founding, OPODNE has helped local residents developleadership skills. It has trained them to: build volunteer teams that survey residents about their needs, develop community improvement and economic development projects, and urge local officials to be accountable to the community.
By working in close partnership with the Catholic Church and local municipalities, OPODNE has established itself as a reliable and trusted community organization. To date, more than 500 leaders have received training and assistance in forming leadership teams in 13 towns. More than 2,500 people are involved in self-help activities, ranging from community cleanups to reforestation to youth recreation and education programs. OPODNE has also created cooperatives that have generated much needed income in towns across northeast Haiti.
These results uniquely positioned OPODNE to educate and serve the northeast communities in response to the pandemic. Faith in Action — a global network of faith rooted community organizations in the United States, Central America, Africa and the Caribbean — provided $13,000 in funds to support the Covid-19 response campaign.
Robust outreach delivers
Dr. Clonel Louis, an OPODNE volunteer, and Florcie Tyrell, an OPODNE staffer, host call-in radio shows on every local station to provide updates and accurate COVID-19 information and resources. Our leadership teams in 13 communities distribute fliers, usemegaphones to make announcements at public markets, and providehealthcare education and training to communities.
We distribute personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves and disinfectant. In just a few weeks, our leaders and volunteers have helped push reliable information and supplies to 7,000 families, about 35,000 people total. And when schools opened, we provided washing stations in every community for students and teachers.
Our efforts are making a remarkable difference. By educatingresidents on how to protect themselves from catching the virus, OPODNE is working to prevent a major catastrophe from taking place in the northeast. And it is continuing to lay the groundwork for social and political change led by the people of Haiti.
COVID-19 curbed, but more work ahead
The northeast region, which previously had the second largest number of new cases in Haiti, has dropped to fifth place as of late August. Though this is amazing news, we know that there is still risk of another outbreak happening, along with the possibility of a famine developing due to food insecurity.
A deeper tragedy lying in this story is the fact that the Haitian government has failed to collaborate with grassroots groups like OPODNE to deliver the services needed to combat COVID and address so many other problems. While the government in Haiti is broken, its people are not.
OPODNE, the citizens of Haiti, the Haitian diaspora, and our allies are filling the gap to prevent people from falling through the cracks. In the long term, we seek to join our brothers and sisters across the globe who work for justice, seek peace, and fulfill the promise of Haiti’s historic place in the struggle for liberation.
OPODNE is giving hope to the northeast communities of Haiti, and it seeks to work with the Haitian Diaspora and the Global community to create something bigger, to usher a deep transformation to those who need it the most.
Maria Revelles is a consultant with Faith in Action International. Francois Pierre-Louis, PhD. is Haiti Director of Faith in Action International. Florcie Tyrell is Director of OPODNE, which is affiliated with Faith in Action International. Faith in Action International supports grassroots organizing that enables those who are most vulnerable and exploited to build political and economic power to better their lives and communities. For more information, visit www.faithinactioninternational.org.