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HelpAge CEO: “Haiti nursing home is stable, but more needs to be done”

27 May 2010

Richard Blewitt, HelpAge's CEO has been in Haiti this week. Below are his personal observations of the difficult situation older people are facing:

"Today, I am in Haiti visiting HelpAge's emergency programme. Since January's earthquake our staff have been working hard to ensure older people are cared for during this humanitarian crisis.

"Challenging situation for older people"

Yesterday I visited Port-au-Prince's Municipal Nursing Home, or ‘Asile Communale' where we have been working since January.

 HelpAge has not "taken over" the Municipal Nursing Home; the city government still remains fully responsible.

We have made several recommendations over the last five months on the best way forward for the care of these residents. We're still hopeful those recommendations will be taken up.

There can be no doubt that the situation there is challenging for the older people. Most of the older residents are still sleeping outside under taurpaulins, though some have better coverage from the elements being housed under a tin roofed structure and some have gone back into part of the nursing home.

Over the past few months, we've provided 3 meals a day for the residents and medicines and medical care, including 14 medical evacuations. Sixty-four older people remain in the grounds of the home. We have provided the nursing home with two temporary latrine and shower blocks and more than 100 "wellbeing" kits which include hygiene and basic household items.

We are also paying regular monthly salaries to some 30 municipal local staff who worked at the home before the quake. Salaries have not been paid by the municipality for five months.

We are spending $2,500 a week on providing all residents' meals and $6,641 a month on wages for carers and staff at the home. In total, in six months, we will spend about $250,000 including for drugs, rehabilitation ($50,000) and temporary shelter ($80,000).

Better care, pay and resources

Our involvement has created a degree of stability that did not exist before - staff know they will be paid (by us), and continue to provide care to the older residents. Even the basic task of providing water and regular meals each day is more than the previous management could accomplish since the earthquake.

But we are still very unhappy with the living conditions at the Asile Communale, and we would much prefer to see the residents housed somewhere more suitable. Somewhere more safe. Simply, somewhere better.

However many of the residents want to stay in the area of the old persons home, but want to feel safer.

"Things have improved but are still difficult"

One resident I spoke to is caring for her daughter and grand-daughter and says things have improved but are still difficult. Having visited another camp, it is obvious that life is hard for all victims of the earthquake.

Tomorrow I will visit another nursing home, in Leogane, another of six care homes in Haiti in which we are working. Conditions there are much better and the quality of care so much higher. But the spotlight has been on the Municipal Care Home and rightly so. Together with the mayor we have to fix things at the Asile Communale.

I am impressed by our staff and their commitment and drive to make a large impact for the older people caught up in the aftermath of the earthquake."

Read more about HelpAge's work in Haiti.

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Author profile

Richard Blewitt
Country: U.K
Job title: Former HelpAge CEO

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.