Thursday, June 13, 2019

Civil Disturbances Continue in Haiti

The political and socio-economic situation in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the country continues to deteriorate as anti-corruption demonstrations which began in February were re-ignited over the weekend.  The large scale public disturbances turned violent leading to road blockades, burning of cars. vandalism of public and private property, robberies, school closings, and sporadic shooting of demonstrators. As of Thursday, June 13, the confrontation between demonstrators and police is stalemated and travel through most of Haiti remains unsafe.

The disturbances were sparked by the report of the disappearance of two billion dollars from the Venezuelan-aided Petro Caribe Fund designated for humanitarian and infrastructure projects.  The funds were allegedly stolen by high ranking Government officials, including President Jovenal Moise.

The civil demonstrations occurred in the context of two years of declining economic conditions in Haiti, with the Haitian currency being devalued sharply and worsening of distribution of food and fuel.  Haiti is facing a large-scale food emergency with 37% of the rural population without access to food. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Fund now ranks Haiti as the leading underfunded food emergency in the world.

Despite the civil disruptions, Medicine For Peace is committed to continue its life-saving projects in rural Haiti. We are moving forward with more robust Safety and Security Policies, including education of Haitian and North American staff and volunteers in behavior to mitigate risks. We have cancelled all volunteer activities at the present time but our women’s health programs have not faltered thanks to our dedicated staff on the ground.  We remain grateful to our supporters who share our vision of a life of health, well-being, and dignity for Haitian women and their families.

Friday, November 2, 2018

MFP Director Receives McGill Global Award

Dr. Michael Viola accepts the McGill Global Award in Montreal in October 2018.

Dr. David Eidelman, Dean of the McGill University School of Medicine recently announced that Michael V. Viola, M.D. is the recipient of the 2018 McGill University Global Award given to an alumnus who has made "extraordinary contributions to the global community".  Dr. Viola received the award in recognition of his work with Medicine For Peace in El Salvador, Iraq, Bosnia, Haiti and the United States. 

McGill Medicine Focus described  the award winner as follows"

By Philip Fine
Michael Viola, MDCM’64, is both healer and activist.
The recipient of the 2018 Medicine Alumni Global Award for Community Service has treated patients in war-torn Iraq and Bosnia, set up cancer detection clinics in Haiti, and corroborated the stories of torture victims.
The founder of the medical relief agency Medicine for Peace (MFP) now divides his time between the MFP office in DC and his clinic in Baltimore, but grew up in Revere, a Boston suburb that knew some rough characters. He remembers a “near-idyllic childhood,” due in large part to a nurturing extended Italian-American family. His local doctor encouraged his interest in medicine, but young Michael, who had read at the library about the international development work of Albert Schweitzer and the war exploits of Norman Bethune, wanted to go beyond the neighbourhood family practice.
He studied medicine in Montreal, a city where Bethune had once worked. McGill, he says, gave him his clinical skills and taught him to treat the practice of medicine with reverence. “They instilled the idea that you were privileged to take care of another human being.”
Returning to Boston each summer, he worked in the lab of Bernard Lown, a Harvard researcher who developed the direct-current defibrillator but was also the dean of the anti-nuclear movement. “He was a very controversial guy. The thought then was that physicians should not be active in politics.”
Lown’s credo, “Never be silent in the presence of wrong,” has framed Viola’s activist work.
In 1991, when the first Gulf War began, Viola was Director of the Cancer Center at the State University of New York.
As he and his wife Kathleen Crane watched aerial footage of bombings on TV, they knew that Baghdad, with five million inhabitants at the time, was experiencing tragedy on the ground. He called a physician friend in Jordan who had come back from Iraq. He talked of there being no electricity, no water, and children wading through knee-deep sewage. It was a public-health crisis waiting to happen.
“Sometimes it is a little moment in your life when you do something. And I did a crazy thing. I wrote to the Iraqi ambassador in the US.” Viola wanted to bring an American team to Iraq to help treat civilians and document their illnesses. “And that’s how it all started.”
In Iraq, he would run into a New York Times reporter. The story of doctors witnessing severe malnutrition and widespread disease would land on page one. MFP would go on to publish a number of in-depth reports on the health crisis in Iraq.
In 1995, MFP focussed on Bosnia. In the wake of the Srebrenica massacre, where more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed, they launched a school-based mental health project and remained in Bosnia for more than five years. “That presence gave people comfort.”
MFP’s more recent humanitarian work operates outside the theatre of war. In Haiti, they established a cervical cancer detection program in mobile clinics, and helped improve treatment infrastructure. And stateside, they’ve been meeting with victims of torture. The detailed examinations have secured asylum for every patient they’ve seen.
While most would think documenting the effects of torture would be trying for examining physicians, Viola projects admiration for the people he meets and their ability to call out a wrong. “They inhabit a different moral universe. I’ve never met a torture victim who regretted what they did. They’re an extraordinarily courageous group of people.”
Michael Viola, through his community service, has shown that a physician not only diagnoses ailments but can identify human rights abuses, and treats more than just individuals but can rally other doctors to help heal entire populations.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

MFP ALERT: Gros Morne in Aftermath of Earthquake

CONTACT: Michael V. Viola, MD
PHONE: 01-202-441-4545

Gros Morne Recovering From Earthquake

Injured Patients Flood Alma Mater Hospital

Child next to damaged home hours after earthquake struck Gros Morne
photo- Brittany Galvin

Gros Morne Haiti, Wed. October 10, 2018.  On Saturday night, October 6, at 8:11 pm a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck the northern port city of Port-de-Paix. The initial shock was followed by strong aftershocks through the weekend. The Interior Ministry reported that there were 15 deaths and perhaps thousands injured. The island is still recovering from the devastating January 2010 earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince and killed more than 200,000 Haitians.
Gros Morne, MFP’s base in Haiti, is only 50 km from Port-de-Paix and suffered considerable damage. Two children were killed in the first shock, and thousands were injured.After a week of assessing damage, Brittany Galvin reports, “I estimate that 60-80% of homes in the area have suffered damage and are not livable. As you can imagine, everyone is scared to sleep inside and so many people are sleeping in the street despite the hard rains.”
The Alma Mater Hospital has played  a central role in the acute response and has responded well to the flood of patients with crush injuries. Unfortunately the pediatric and men’s wards were structurally damaged and had to be evacuated. Structural engineers are examining the building at the present time. We are relieved to report that MFP staff, our volunteers, and our hospital colleagues were not injured during the earthquake. All MFP personnel have been assigned to the acute care unit as injured patients arrive in need of immediate help.
Medicine For Peace is a medical relief and humanitarian organization, founded in 1991, dedicated to providing care to victims of war and extreme poverty.
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