Christopher Glass/IMA World Health
Under the porch roof of a community building, Trifene Phaete keeps pace with the children running and playing around him as he directs the crowd at the busy community drug distribution post.
Trifene, 62, is one of almost 19,000 community volunteers who participate in the Haiti Neglected Tropical Disease Control program. He has been working with the program since 2008 and is currently serving more than 46,000 people in a municipality called Grande-Riviere-du-Nord in the north of Haiti.
He works with the Ministry of Health and Population (MSPP), IMA World Health and RTI International to distribute medicines to prevent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – specifically lymphatic filariasis (LF) and soil transmitted helminths (STH), such as hookworm. The Haiti Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program is a joint effort between partners and the MSPP and the Ministry of Education (MENFP) to eliminate and control LF and STH in Haiti. USAID support for NTD control began in 2007 under the NTD Control Program (2006-2012) and continues under RTI’s ENVISION project (2011-2016).
Members of the community like Trifene are vital to the success of the program. He is now training and managing a group of 44 volunteers from the area who are trusted and respected. If someone does not come to receive the medicine at a distribution point, a volunteer will visit their home to deliver the medicine.
This level of dedication has helped Grande-Riviere-du-Nord reach incredible coverage rates, ranging between 92-95% annually.
After five years, the distribution of medicine has become routine and expected. This type of consistent coverage is needed to stop the spread of LF, which can cause extreme swelling in limbs and stigmatize those affected. “In the past you would see people with swollen legs in this area. Now you don’t,” Trifene says.
Through the efforts of Trifene and the rest of the community volunteers in Haiti, the program is able to reach 4.8 million people every year – many of whom are children – with these life-changing medicines.