In Haiti’s struggling economy and tough job market, selling prescription drugs illegally has become an attractive option – especially since street vendors operate with impunity. But the lower prices and more flexible purchasing options that street vendors provide come at a cost as consumers increasingly forgo pharmacies and formal medical treatment.
Residents of neighborhoods on the banks of Port-au-Prince’s debris-filled stormwater gullies live alongside stagnant water and shifting earth, making them vulnerable to both landslides and disease. A volunteer effort seeks to improve life in these communities – and help the environment.
Earlier in July, protests against price hikes paralyzed Port-au-Prince, but the demonstrations also forced the closing of one of the capital’s sources of affordable food: the informal street chefs known as “manje kwit.” With stands near markets and bus stops, these vendors offer meals for $1 or less, and their fare is a lifeline for many of the capital’s food-insecure residents.
Haiti’s Cité Soleil area, a densely-populated neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, is known for violence. A group of mental health professionals now work with children in their schools to help them manage the stress they experience living there.
Aside from their belief in the supernatural, more and more Haitians are looking for healing from Voodoo priests rather than physicians, because of far lower fees. One former priest likens healing rituals to psychotherapy.
Few Haitians have access to formal health clinics where they can receive basic gynecological care, let alone give birth to their children. Traditional midwives attend most births in the country, even when the women giving birth can’t afford to pay them.
At public hospitals, malfunctioning equipment and a shortage of items used in dialysis mean that patient treatments are likely to be infrequent; costs at private hospitals are prohibitive. In a society that relies on imports of unhealthy processed foods and that has suffered a string of natural disasters, many people have diabetes and hypertension, the chief causes of kidney disease.
Haiti’s 2010 earthquake was a disaster on many levels for the small Caribbean country, and its effects are still being felt today: The earthquake ranks among the top causes of disability in Haiti. Part of recovering from the catastrophe means challenging the perception of disabled Haitians.
When faced with a choice of going to a public hospital where poor care is common, many women are opting to self-medicate and see traditional midwives instead. Health professionals are working to increase awareness and improve care.