From Haiti to Malawi and back

Posted on 05/04/10

In the pre-dawn hours of January 13, a phone call awakened Dr. Jonas Rigodon and his wife at their home in Neno, Malawi. The news was bad. A massive earthquake had just hit their native Haiti.

Shocked and worried, Jonas and other Haitian physicians at PIH sites in Africa--which include Malawi, Lesotho, and Rwanda--struggled for news of family, friends, and colleagues. And, just a few days after the quake, these skilled physicians boarded planes to aid in the immediate relief efforts.

Now back in Malawi, Jonas recorded a short video. In it he describes his return to Haiti, the ways in which international collaboration has strengthened PIH, and the importance of PIH's comprehensive approach to health and human rights:

Jonas first joined PIH's Haitian sister organization, Zanmi Lasante (ZL), in 2002. After working with ZL for four years, he volunteered to bring his knowledge of methods pioneered in Haiti to PIH's projects in Africa. Jonas's first stop was the landlocked, African nation of Lesotho, where he helped launch PIH Lesotho's rural initiative--working alongside Basotho colleagues in a remote mountain-top clinic. Three years later, he moved on to Malawi to assume the role of Deputy Director at Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo, PIH's Malawian sister organization.

PIH's Program on Social and Economic Rights (POSER) is one of the major innovations created in Haiti by ZL that Jonas has helped bring to PIH's African sites. POSER stems from a core PIH belief: Fighting disease in impoverished settings also means fighting the poverty at the root of poor health.

The program addresses the social inequalities that drive the vicious cycle of poverty and disease by providing nutritional support, building houses, paying for school fees and installing well caps or filtering systems to ensure access to clean drinking water.

Watch Jonas describe the connections between our work in Haiti and Malawi and to see him featured in a recent BBC documentary on the Malawi POSER program.

Jonas's message is a compelling reminder that PIH's mission--whether assisting in earthquake recovery or helping African nations combat HIV--is both medical and moral.


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