April 5, 2011
Bolstering Veterinary Training in Haiti
HSI gathers local veterinarians to support spay/neuter efforts
by Chris Broughton-Bossong
Humane Society International’s team in Haiti recently hosted a five-day-long spay/neuter and vaccination clinic at three locations in Port-de-Paix, a city on the northern coast about six hours from Port-au-Prince, with support from both La Fédération des associations francophones de vétérinaires pour animaux de compagnie and our partner, Best Friends Animal Society.
Half of the drive to Port-de-Paix is made only by rocky dirt roads, which adds considerable time to the length of the journey. Early on March 13, the HSI Haiti team and Dr. Martine Jobin, DVM, a Canadian veterinarian and representative of FAFVAC, loaded all of the equipment needed to set up a mobile surgical facility into two vehicles and began to make our way up the coast.
We had arranged for Dr. Pedro Meneus, a Haitian veterinarian who had attended and excelled at a spay/neuter training clinic we had held in October 2010, to join us and help coach some of his colleagues as needed. He proved once again to be a valuable asset to the project and was more than happy to work with some of the other vets to improve their clinical skills and procedural understanding. Our team’s goal is to develop a "train the trainer" system with all of our projects here and Dr. Meneus is one of several veterinarians we have worked with who have really stepped up to the plate and embraced the sustainable impact they can have in their country by taking the time to share their expertise with their peers.
Rising to meet the challengeUpon our arrival in Port-au-Paix, in the late evening, my teammates and I pitched our tents on the roof of our host’s house and settled in for the painfully short night, as we were to head to the clinic site at first light. Early the next morning, we arrived at Dr. Valbrun’s house, where we to set up for the first day of the operation. Dr. Valbrun is a Haitian veterinarian who works for the Ministry of Agriculture and who had graciously offered to host the first day of this clinic. It is always satisfying to watch a location that may be little more than an open field and a front porch be transformed into a fully functioning surgical suite and recovery room! We were very impressed at how quickly the veterinary team, for the most part unfamiliar with setting up a mobile spay/neuter clinic, broke into groups and quickly began their pre-surgical exams. Within a matter of hours, they had transformed this open lot into a surgical hospital.
Each day, the efficiency of the veterinary teams and their camaraderie and communication increased. It was very encouraging for us to realize that the vets needed minimal guidance. Their considerable drive and dedication to this operation were increasingly evident and we watched their handling of the animals become more compassionate, their interactions with each other become more collaborative and the clinic as a whole become more unified. On several occasions, they worked into the night to make sure that every animal who was brought in was tended to.
The final day of operations was held at the Ministry of Agriculture Port-au-Paix office. After the surgeries were completed, we brought everyone together to talk over any questions or concerns. We discussed some considerations for making future clinics more efficient and productive. The veterinarians unanimously communicated the sense of pride that they felt in being able to take part in a project that addressed not only the health and care of the animals in their community, but also planted a seed toward addressing concerns over human rabies contraction in their region. With the continued support of the Haiti Ministry of Agriculture and the dedication of the veterinarians across the country, clinics of this kind will continue to grow both in frequency and impact and HSI is excited to do everything we can to facilitate this.
Chris Brougton-Bossong is Haiti Program Coordinator for HSI.