The last nine months have been unlike any in the history of Partners In Health. In the midst of the devastation wrought by the January 12 earthquake, we learned again from Haiti that forces of solidarity, love and team work are more potent than any disaster. Thus, it was fitting that the Partners In Health 17th Annual Thomas J. White Symposium was entitled "Lessons from Haiti: Tackling Acute and Chronic Disasters." We were deeply honored that so many of you traveled to Cambridge to be with us on September 25th, and that this year, the Symposium was streamed live to places as far flung as California and Liberia.
For those of you who were unable to join us for the original event you can watch the video of it on the player below:
In this difficult year, we found our strength through our amazing staff in Haiti, providing direct response; our dedicated teams in Africa, Russia and Latin America continuing the work and even giving their own time and financial support to Haiti relief and through all of you--the large network of supporters who we can friends and family of PIH. In the words of Dr. Louise Ivers, PIH's Chief of Mission in Haiti, "Accompaniment is being there in the darkest hour." Your accompaniment of PIH has allowed us to support the work of Haitians as they stand on the side of the poor and most vulnerable, often in their own communities, to overcome the obstacles that have been magnified in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Their sentiments and strength were epitomized by Dr. Dubique Kobel in excerpts from the short film "Haiti's Hero's" about ZL's work in Parc Jean Marie Vincent,"It's not just the earthquake that caused this suffering. There was never health care here. No right to education. No right to housing. What gives me strength is that it's my community. I understand their suffering because I grew up with it."
Those most vulnerable to acute disasters--whether man-made or natural--are the same people we accompany every day in their fight for dignity and justice in the face of the chronic privation--poverty and inequality--that consumes the lives of many through malnutrition, diseases like HIV and TB, and normal conditions turned life threatening by lack of medical care--such as pregnancy and childbirth. By addressing these underlying problems of poverty and inequalityand their medical consequences today, we strengthen the very systems needed to respond to the earthquake or flood of tomorrow. Bruce Nizeye, Chief of Infrastructure for PIH's efforts in Rwanda, hit this point home when he spoke of the power of the new state-of-the-art, public hospital in Butaro in revitalizing a community previously devastated by a genocide.
In his closing remarks, PIH co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer brought these sentiments full circle by stressing the importance of accompanying individuals, communities and nations. "The best hospital in Haiti should be rooted in Haitian soil," he said, noting that in the aftermath of the earthquake the best medical facilities to be found were floating in Port-au-Prince Harbor on the USNS Comfort. His description of PIH's commitment to creating centers of medical excellence for the poor and marginalized in both Haiti and Rwanda exemplifies a model for building back better that includes enhancing medical education, strengthening local capacity, bolstering social and economic opportunities and respecting the human dignity of those we serve.
As PIH's Chief Medical Officer, I am humbled to accompany an incredible cadre of drivers, social workers, nurses, and doctors on a daily basis. Every day I wish that our supporters could be with me to see this team in action, to see their heroism and devotion in the face of adversity. I am proud that this year's Symposium continued to feature their voices, the voices of our colleagues from Haiti, Rwanda, and Malawi, the voices of the communities we strive to serve.
PIH Chief Medical Officer