Project HOPE volunteers will arrive in Haiti on Friday to provide medical care for underserved communities, in collaboration with the U.S. Navy on the hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, which is making a poignant return visit 18 months after providing emergency care to thousands struck by a devastating earthquake that left hundreds of thousands homeless.
Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, will check in on patients who underwent surgery aboard the Comfort for injuries after the massive 2010 quake. Some patients will have follow up operations on the ship while others will be treated in Port-au-Prince.
“It’s a great honor for Project HOPE to return to Haiti on board the USNS Comfort after an effective collaboration with the U.S. Navy in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Our partnership with the U.S. Navy has produced invaluable health benefits to communities in need throughout the Latin American region,” said John P. Howe III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE.
Project HOPE partnered with the U.S. Navy to care for more than 1,000 Haitians aboard the USNS Comfort. HOPE also provided more than $60 million of medicines and medical supplies to the relief effort. After the Comfort left Haiti, HOPE continued to send volunteer doctors and nurses to support health care systems at three separate hospitals throughout Haiti. HOPE currently has medical volunteers at Hopital Albert Schweitzer, in Deschapelles, assisting cholera patients, as well as HOPE staff at the Adventist Hospital in Diquini, supporting a multi-year rehabilitation program to care for more than 4,000 amputees since the earthquake.
HOPE medical volunteers have been on board the massive white hospital ship since April as part of a five-month international mission, known as Continuing Promise 2011. More than 1,000 surgeries have been performed and almost 135,600 medical services provided to over 41,000 patients so far in Jamaica, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru with a final stop in Haiti. The mission has provided over 6,000 health education opportunities to local health professionals and their communities throughout the region.
HOPE volunteers have trained local physicians, nurses and community health professionals and patients received primary care services on in cardiology, pediatrics, infectious disease and dermatology.
There has been keen interest in disaster medicine as the Comfort sailed through Latin America. A HOPE volunteer with disaster management experience and training by FEMA briefed some regional governments on effective response procedures in the critical phase of a medical emergency caused by a natural disaster.
HOPE Medical Director aboard the Comfort, Tracey Kunkel, an operating room nurse from Pennsylvania and retired from the U.S. Navy after 21 years, has been teaching a “Helping Babies Breathe” course and other health education programs to community health workers in the region.
“This is my third mission for Project HOPE. Our ‘train-the-trainer’ methodology involves teaching local health professionals essential medical skills, such as how to care for newborn babies in the critical first moments of life. The lessons learned are shared with others in the community, potentially saving lives and lowering high infant mortality rates,” said Ms. Kunkel.
Ms. Kunkel said local health care professionals have received training in nutrition, women’s and children’s health and the importance of promoting hand washing to prevent illness.
HOPE’s Chief Nursing Officer, Faye Pyles, says countless families in the region have received advanced care that is not available in their countries.
“We have met hundreds of people – young and old – who received surgery and medical care that gives them hope for a healthy future – I think every family deserves this opportunity,” said Ms. Pyles.
About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 35 countries across five continents.
Media Contact: Geraldine Carroll Tel. +1.540.257.3746 gcarroll(at)projecthope(dot)org