Building the Workforce to Help Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Maurice MiddlebergShe’s 14 years old and HIV-positive. She has been taking ARVs her whole life but no one told her why she was taking medications. She finally confronted the doctors and asked for an explanation as to why she was taking the pills. The doctors answered her questions. She then had something of a crisis and became quite depressed. We have been working with her and we’re very happy because she seems to have recovered. You can see she is back playing with the other children and smiling again.”

This story was told to me during a recent visit to Haiti by a staff member at an NGO working with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). It is a poignant reminder of the terrible costs of the HIV pandemic, which has created a large number of children who have lost a parent or live in a household with a seriously ill adult. In Haiti there are more than a million such children. This problem was exacerbated by the January 2010 earthquake, which resulted in an additional 150,000 orphans.

The needs of OVC extend beyond health services to include mental health care, schooling, food and nutrition, shelter, and protection from abuse and exploitation. The clinician or community health worker is usually ill-prepared to arrange and integrate the array of services needed by OVC. These are the skills of the social worker. Read more »

Haiti Prioritizes Human Resources for Health

On Wednesday, I attended the Global Health Council Conference plenary session entitled "After the Earthquake: Towards Building a New Haitian Health System”, in which the Haitian Minister of Health, the Honorable Dr. Alex Larsen, discussed Haiti’s number one health priority—building the country’s human resources for health.

Dr. Larsen and partners of the Haitian Ministry of Health conveyed the futility of developing infrastructure and obtaining commodities without simultaneously bolstering the health care workforce. He mentioned three cadres of health workers that are currently in particularly high demand: community health workers, midwives, and nurse anesthesiologists. Read more »

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