Hard to let go

Dye mon gen mon

I completed my work for IDA Foundation in Haiti in January 2011. I am leaving this blog up for any interested persons (my site stats still show a few random visits a day). It’s hard to let go – a year later I’m still listening to compas almost daily, and I still sometimes update the content in the Resources on health, development and access to medicines and More on Haiti pages. Hopefully someone will find them useful. It doesn’t really fit in my immediate plans, but I look forward to going back to Haiti one day.

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Green along the coast

A few more photos of the countryside, this time along the coast (but no photos of the gorgeous sea, unforgivable I know!) These were taken in October on my way to Petit-Goâve, 75 km from Port-au-Prince, where I visited a project of the small but dynamic Pharmaciens Aide Humanitaire , who are rehabilitating a regional medical store. At the time they were also planning a similar project for Les Cayes, including a pilot school for the training of pharmacists.

On the way to Petit-Gôave


Banana trees and sugar cane

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In the Central Plateau

I am back in The Netherlands, but there are a few things I still want to share, so before I conclude this blog, a few posts are coming up this month.

Something that I really wanted to do while in Haiti was to visit more clinics and health centers outside of Port-au-Prince. I had already visited a few of Partners in Health’s clinics in the Haitian Artibonite and Plateau Central regions. However Partners in Health is a large organization, and I also wanted to visit small organizations. Both small and large organizations face similar issues, but each have their unique challenges too. Dealing with the bureaucracy of customs clearance is for example comparatively much more of a burden for a small organization based in the countryside, who have to send staff to the capital city in order to go through the administration-and-waiting process, than for (larger) organisations who have staff in Port-au-Prince.

My visit ‘into the field’, as they say, was delayed several times. In November the response to the cholera epidemic was still in early stages and it made more sense for me to be in Port-au-Prince, following the progress of the response and keeping organizations up to date on our cholera medicine stocks. Medical staff throughout the country was generally quite overwhelmed too, not the best time for a visit. In December there were the elections and the riots after the preliminary results were announced, not the best time to venture out. Around Christmas I went to visit a good friend in Chicago. The 12th of January was the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, with political suspense all around as the conclusions of the Organisation of American States report on the first round of elections had been leaked two days earlier, and an official response from President Préval was expected a few days later. Not knowing when announcements would actually be made, what they would say, and what the reaction would be, I wanted to be cautious about traveling out of Port-au-Prince for a few days.

In the end however, Préval was still not making any official announcements, the country seemed relatively calm, and my time was running out, so I organised a two-day trip to visit three organizations in the Plateau Central. There is always a degree of uncertainty in Haiti these days, but these two days seemed safe. Bastien and I drove out to Thomassique first, a 6-hour drive. It took us about 1 hour just to get out of Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets, a neighbouring town which has become part of the large Port-au-Prince urban area. Once out of the city, we crossed a range of dry mountains to reach the Central Plateau. The way up these dry mountains is scary. Trucks full of stone from a nearby quarry suddenly appear in the bend of the road as they come down the mountain. They drive fast and close to the middle of the road, so both Bastien and the truck driver have to swerve to avoid a collision. I felt like I was in the middle of a real life ‘game of chicken’. In addition, tap-taps and other cars are also coming down and overtaking the trucks. Bastien is a great driver, but I held my breath between a few scared gasps for most of the way up.

Arriving in the Central Plateau

Once we were in the Central Plateau, I was still gasping, but this time out of joy. The view is beautiful: a large expanse of mountains, plains and the occasional undulating river, the whole splashed in shades of green in the lush areas and patches of more rocky, desert colors in the dry areas. Driving through the small villages dotted along the road (or is the road winding through the small villages?) has a double-edged feeling. The little houses with wooden-panel and pointy-roofed fronts are very cute – often the wood is carved, and painted in pastel blue, pink or green. We drive through a busy market which includes a large cattle section. I love these long-horned cows and their peaceful no-nonsense demeanor. For kilometres before and after the market, people are walking along the road with full or empty baskets depending on whether they are walking towards the market or back home. It is the characteristic beauty of the countryside, the shade of large mango trees, fields of spinach and other greens, goats grazing seemingly in the middle of nowhere, donkeys pulling carts, chicken coops,  children running after hoops with sticks or bopping up and down on little horses, families on the porch, little businesses everywhere (including hundreds of little lottery booths)…

Elevated chicken coop next to a painted house


Typical countryside house (photo from 'Caribbean Houses' book)

Yet the Haitian countryside is also characteristic poverty. How much electricity does this village have to keep business and studying going after the night falls, to refrigerate food, to end the day with some radio or television? How much clean water is pouring through taps? How far do students have to walk to school? I can only imagine much of this, but I can tell you how far they have to go in case of a medical emergency. In the village of Juampas for example, the little clinic, run by a single doctor, two nurses, a stock-keeper and an administrative assistant, there are no specific small surgery or maternal services. These are referred to the town of Mirebalais, an hour’s drive on a very bumpy road through several river points which easily flood during the rainy season. And I didn’t see any cars parked by the corrugated iron or wood shacks, so motorbike, donkey cart, or walk seem like the only options This is quite close, as Juampas is right on the main road, but other villages are further away.

Beauty and poverty, the bittersweetness of Haiti. I think of more two-sided coins as we arrive at the large Lac de Péligre. The lake is beautiful, surrounded by green mountains, and bordered by little houses whose dwellers plow the steep sides plunging towards the water. Yet this lake was created by a dam in the 1950s, at the expense of farming land vital to the regions’ inhabitants. (This is, by the way, the region where Paul Farmer started working in Haiti.)

Lac de Péligre

After the lake, we enjoyed a smooth couple of hours on the newly asphalted road, through more lovely countryside. The last hour, however, after passing the town of Hinche, was one of serious bumps on a dirt road. There had been no rain for a while, and the road was covered in a layer of white dust – as were the plants and houses bordering the road. This gave the scenery a strange ghost-like impression, sometimes dotted by a few bright red hibiscus flowers, like when photos are developed in black and white except for a certain colour.

White dust covering the road, but not the bright red hibsiscus 

Finally we reached Thomassique, and after spending an hour with the staff responsible for the St Joseph Clinic medicines supply chain, headed back west to visit another clinic in Hinche, and then back to Mirelabalais for the night.

The clinic in Thomassique


Driving back in the evening

The next morning is when we drove to Juampas, east of Mirebalais. After showing me around the clinic, the doctor took some time to tell me about the medicines-related challenges. When I gave him our new catalogue, his first reaction was an anxious question: ‘have the prices changed?’ I answered that while I did not know specifically which products and how much, in general prices would have changed a little, yes. It is later in our conversation that I realized the measure of his anxiety. He showed me his list of medicines need for the coming three months. It totaled about US$ 27,000, and he had sent it to the small headquarters of the organization in the US. They had replied that they had not been able to raise more funds than to allow him a medicines budget of US$6,000, so he had to go through his list and almost cut it down to a fifth. He managed to make a new list of about US$7,500, and any small increase of price from our side would mean he would have to sacrifice yet a few more products.

‘Affordability’ is one of IDA’s core pillars, and not only do we strive to negotiate the best prices with manufacturers, we also aim to keep transport, administrative, etc. costs low. However talking with this doctor, native to the very village in which he works, I was soberly reminded that what may seem like a few, small, not too significant cost increases along the long supply chain process can have serious, direct consequences on his work. And as much as I enjoyed being in the countryside for the beautiful landscape, it is for this reminder and to be able to witness the tireless work of these small organizations at the end of bumpy dirt roads that I am most glad to have been able to make it out of Port-au-Prince, even if just for a couple of days.

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Access to Essential Medicines: 10 stories that mattered in 2010

And matter for 2011 too! See the ten stories on the MSF website.

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Elections and protests update

What you can read in the news

Tuesday evening the Conseil Electoral Provisoire announced the preliminary results of the national elections which took place last week. In the presidential race, Mirlande Manigat was announced to be in the lead with 31.37% (336,378 votes), Jude Celestin second with 22.48% (241,462 votes), and Michel Martelly third with 21.84% (234,617 votes). Candidates now have some time to appeal on the announced results, the final results will then be announced on December 20th. The top two candidates will be presented for a second round (required if no one has more than 50%), which will take place January 16th.

The elections were already unpopular with some or many (I can’t actually tell how much of course) Haitians to begin with, considering the fact that the popular Lavalas party (of former president Aristide) was exluded from participation, and that no candidate seemed to especially represent ‘the people’. In addition, the organisation of the campaigns and elections, as well as the costs, were seen as extravagant when the country faces so many reconstruction challenges. Not all of those who wanted to get registered to vote were able to either, and on the day of the election there were also issues with registration, claims of fraud, and  ransacking of some polling stations. Again, I definitely can’t tell how much actually went well or not, but TV and radio reported quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the day of the election. The electoral commission and international observers admitted to some hitches, but declared the election valid.

When the results were announced, they did not match previous estimates (from before and after the election), which indicated Joseph Martelly, a popular singer, to be in the lead, instead of the Jude Celestin, the ruling party’s candidate. This was followed by immediate protest in the streets Tuesday evening, all day Wednesday, as well as today, Thursday. The airport is closed, and not many are venturing outside their houses. Following this, the electoral commission ordered an urgent review of the presidential poll results today.

What it’s like to be here

Tuesday night was a bit impressive, the protests started in the neighbourhood right above mine and moved down to my area too. I could hear some of the crowd, gun shots, and smell burning tires.

Wednesday everyone that wasn’t out demonstrating stayed at home – there wasn’t much choice anyway as thousands of people walked down the main streets, and as burning tires, rubble and big rubbish containers were placed to block the roads.

Today from what I can tell things were slightly calmer, but there were still demonstrations and one more death, in Port-au-Prince this time after Haitians threw rocks at UN peacekeeping forces (yesterday there were four in Les Cayes, in the south, and one in Cap Haitian, in the north, reportedly due to fighting between rival political supporters). People stayed at home again.

It is a bit crazy to hear demonstrations going on outside quite close by of course, but I haven’t felt unsafe at all. My Internet has been down most of the two days, but not on my phone, and in the evenings it gets better, so I’ve been able to both work a little and not feel isolated. The appartment complex I am in is running low on water, but I have a tank that can last a few days. Electricity has been totally fine, and I’ve got food stocked up. So it’s not tough and not scary. Still it would be good for everyone if things got back to normal. I do expect things to be improved tomorrow, especially considering the poll review.

I definitely respect that if Haitians are unhappy about how the elections have gone, they express it. One very bad effect of freezing up the whole city and part of the country however is that it also freezes a lot of the cholera response: ambulances can’t circulate, medicines are not being distributed to the instituions that need them, and I guess many, if not most or all, health workers are not going to work.

Finally, a note on the violence: ruling party offices and some other buildings were burnt down or ransacked, there have been gunshots and grenades in the streets, and rocks thrown at the police and UN peacekeeping forces, who responded with tear gas and gunshots in the air. Still, I feel like from what I saw on TV, a lot of people yesterday were simply marching down the streets. Yes, they were shouting, chanting, running, and protesting, but they weren’t wildly shooting around. I’m not saying just a bit of violence and a few deaths are acceptable – not at all! – but media reports of ‘armed clashes’ and footage of the burning tires and grenade throwing sometimes make it seem more violent than it is. It’s definitely a big deal, but at this point it’s not a civil war.

If you want to stay up to date, here are two aggregator websites for news about Haiti:

General news: http://www.haitinews.net/

Humanitarian news: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/dbc.nsf/doc104?OpenForm&rc=2&cc=hti

There is a bit of a time lag between events and reporting of course (yesterday it was quite fast, but somehow today since things had relatively calmed down news reports were coming in slower) – fastest way to get news is via radio, and friends who luckily share security updates with you! Yesterday I also got to see quite a bit of coverage of the streets on Haitian television (and not just the violent bits, especially as Haitian reporting features a lot of very long moments where the camera just walks or motorbikes down streets, without any commentary except where they are), but I had to look for it because not all my channels always work, and sometimes all channels thought it was fine to play Spanish and Indian soap operas, Christmas movies, and music videos for several hours in a row despite what was going on!

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A friend of mine sent me this article: http://archive.truthout.org/how-rumors-rule-cholera-torn-haiti65656. It is a must-read! (*if you are interested in Haiti and/or development…)

Some thoughts:

It might be the best article I have read about Haiti so far. Maybe because it expresses and reinforces my own observations, and we always like our own feelings to be confirmed!Nonetheless, I think the article highlights something critical to ‘understanding (a part of) Haiti’: the perception of many Haitians with regards to the international community, aid and peace-keeping. In addition to the relevance of the topic, I feel the tone is right and the description quite accurate and sensitive. I am tempted to say it is ‘unfortunately’ quite accurate, because it does break my heart.

The article also points to how important it is for development work to understand the context it is working in (socially, but even in terms of infrastructure too, when you consider the paved road story for example). Logistics, technical design, funding – they are all very important too. However understanding the context – most probably by really involving those you are actually working for – may be one of the most important factors for lasting positive impact. And one which much of the development community is not very good at so far.

You may have noticed that I don’t really write about aid and development – I definitely have a lot of feelings about these topics and often spend most of my time thinking about it, but I don’t actually have enough knowledge and experience to write sensible things (or at least not without a lot of time and effort that are better spent on my work right now). However this article resonated with me – both in my attempt to understand some of Haiti while I am here and reflect it via this blog, as well as in its illustration of the importance of ‘the way NGOs are perceived by a community that they are supposed to serve’ (the article focuses on how this can affect aid effectiveness, but it’s also a very interesting topic in terms of human relationships). So here no hesitations in encouraging you to read it.

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On the walls: it’s Jerry!

I’m not the only one whose eye was caught by graffiti – thanks to a colleague I discovered the graffiti artist from earlier posts signs ‘Jerry’ and not ‘Jezz’, and has definitely been noticed by the media. There are YouTube videos of him at work too. Check these out if you’re interested:

CNN video: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/03/07/mckenzie.haiti.graffiti.champ.cnn?iref=allsearch

Featured in ‘Day 10’ of this remarkable photo-essay: http://voicesofhaiti.com/photos

Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/29/1706326_p2/graffiti-depicts-frustration-hope.html

And just today I happened to take a new photo:

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Medicine supply in Haiti: more of the same?

Last post I talked about the technical exchange meeting we held in October in order to identify the challenges in the medicines supply chain and brainstorm on potential solutions.

I recently found a report written in 2008 (USAID/Haiti Maternal and Child Health Portfolio Review and Assessment) with a section on the health sector logistics in Haiti. I was a little stunned to read a description that is quite similar to what was discussed at the technical exchange meeting, as well as what I have observed through my meetings with NGOs and other parties. This means that two years later, there hasn’t been much improvement. Maybe this shouldn’t have been very surprising, but it is quite troubling.

Here is most of the section. The whole thing is interesting, but since it’s already quite long I cut out parts which I thought were not necessary for a general understanding of the situation.



The health sector logistics management situation has been anarchic for many years. The national system is woefully inefficient and ineffective.



Although PROMESS is referred to as the central procurement agency of the MSPP [Ministry of Public Health and population], it remains a PAHO/WHO project to this day. Designed during a crisis [during the embargo period in 1992] to procure, store, and distribute essential drugs, once the embargo was lifted the MSPP and donors continued to view PROMESS as the central agency in Haiti‘s drugs logistics system, without seriously reassessing its status as a WHO project or determining if the hastily established agency responded appropriately to the country‘s needs and constraints. The 17 departmental drug depots (Centres Départementaux d‘Approvisionnement en Intrants, or CDAI) still have no legal status, and it is unclear who is responsible for their maintenance and upkeep (MSPP central? MSPP regional? WHO?). As a result, most of the CDAIs have not been maintained and are in poor condition, albeit a few of them have benefitted from donor renovations.


Moreover, there is a lack of communication at all levels of the logistics system (between central level MSPP and the departments, between and within departments; between MSPP central departments and PROMESS). There are frequent stock-outs, untrained and demotivated staff, unclear procedures, poor forecasting, weak supervision and management, deficient technical capacity, and no active distribution of drugs and supplies. While there is general agreement that the logistics system is within the MSPP‘s mandate, the MSPP lacks the financial, material, and human resources to manage and maintain the system. The DPM/MT (Direction de la Pharmacie du Médicament et de la Médicine Traditionnelle) is the MSPP regulatory body. Moreover, there are several MSPP technical offices that play a role in the system, even if it is not entirely clear what those roles are. There seems to be little or no coordination of activities, no oversight, and no accountability. 



The chronic stock-outs of basic drugs and supplies at health facilities have led to the creation of parallel procurement and distribution systems by international organizations (USAID, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, World Vision, Médecins Sans Frontières, and others) and private clinics and hospitals. It is reported that even some public-sector facilities have set up their own drug procurement systems. The MSPP feels that these parties have usurped its role as manager of the sector’s logistics system, while the parties justify their unilateral action (parallel systems) by asserting that the MSPP does not have the capacity to set up and run a viable system. Both sides have legitimate grievances, but to continute the finger pointing is counterproductive. The challenge is to design a system that is cost-efficient and operationally effective in meeting the different needs of health care facilities nationwide. The only good thing about the current dysfunctional situation is that it provides an opportunity to start anew. Once the vision of a new system is clear and agreed upon by all parties, the next challenge is to elaborate a coherent plan and define steps to be taken to set up and launch the system. To be successful, the plan requires widespread support and participation by all concerned parties.


In May of this year [2008], the MSPP issued a ―Plan to Strengthen the National Essential Drugs and Supplies System in a document entitled Projet de Création du Réseau National de Distribution des Intrants. … [work on this project, now referred to as Système National Logistique des Intrants, is ongoing – 3 main scenarios for a national medicines logistics system have been outlined – however since this involves political endorsement, it is highly unlikely that any decisions will be taken before the new government is in place, which means also not counting on real implementation very soon]


The private for-profit pharmaceutical … sector prefers to import products that enable the largest profit to the detriment of basic essential drugs. From all accounts, the private sector is not able to satisfy the demand for medicines and its distribution systems are also unorganized. People come to Port-au-Prince to stock up on medicines, going from agency to agency trying to negotiate the best deals. Even the private sector has stock-outs from time to time. … Suffice it to say that the needs of the Haitian population are not being met satisfactorily by either the public or private sector. 


Some things have changed, and I don’t know how accurate every detail of the report is, but the general picture is remains quite faithful to the current reality. The part in bold makes me think about Michael Keizer’s post about whether or not to set up a parallel supply system (and the issue comes back below). I also think the part about moving beyond grievances – even if they are legitimate – toward constructive solutions (or at least improvements) is important if something is going to change before another two years pass by. In terms of structural improvement on the whole supply framework, much can come out of the new national logistics system if it is well designed and well implemented – I don’t know enough about the options it currently outlines to pronounce myself on this, but what we do see is that the first plan was already drawn two and a half years ago…

What is IDA’s role in this story? We are not governmental policy-makers or demanding donors. We are a supplier of medicines and medical equipments, specialising in wholesale, procurement services, tenders, and anti-retrovirals. This means we can definitely share our technical experience in terms of logistics, supply chain management, quality assurance, etc. But we are not the ones to design and implement a national medicines logistics system.

Essentially, that is why I am here: to find out how we can further contribute to our mission in Haiti, i.e. improving access to medicines, through our role as a supplier. This implies two questions. First, is there an actual need to improve the medicines supply chain? The above passage is a good summary to conclude that yes, there is a clear need, as “the needs of the Haitian population are not being met satisfactorily” by the current systems in place. In my opinion this has also been confirmed in pretty much all of my meetings so far, as well as at the technical exchange meeting.

The second question is whether IDA can actually be a contributor to respond to that need: maybe there is a need, but we are not the right party to respond to it. That conclusion would be a little disappointing for IDA, but it would be fair enough. So far however, my conclusion is that there is definitely a role for IDA, even within the ‘constraints’ of our role as a supplier.

Basically, we can do either one or both of two things: a) be a catalyst and contributor in the structural improvement of the ‘national’ supply chain, b) improve our service as an ‘alternative’ supply chain. So after having answered these two questions, one of my main activities is to (try to) map out these options in a concrete manner – both include several sub-options, so I’m looking at what the needs are, and the services that we can offer to respond to this need (evenutally in partnership with others),  what the different options would require from IDA in terms of people, organisation, and investment, and of course what effects they are most likely to have.

One of the challenges of the assignment is when ‘concrete’ means being able to put numbers on, for example, what the actual needs are – with such a fragmented group of NGOs and public institutions, it’s hard to get an overview. Similarly, in this context it’s hard to know in advance what the effects of a project would be. But well, that’s the whole point: I’m trying to gather as much relevant information as possible to enable us to judge the best course for now.

The backdrop to this interesting assignment is a worrying perspective: identifying challenges and opportunities does not actually guarantee change in the future. This report was written two years ago, and I reasonably suspect it was the same four years ago too. So for the years to come, more of the same? I hope not!

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Technical exchange meeting

The reporting is a bit late since this happened in October, but anyway: what kept me (very) busy the first half of October was the organisation of a ‘technical exchange meeting’. On October 19th, around 50 people from 30 different organisations came together for a day to discuss the medicines supply chain in Haiti. IDA’s Managing Director, visiting from the Netherlands, led the discussions. Keep reading for anecdotes, or see the brief news item on the IDA website.

The organisation of the day took a lot of emails, phone calls, and visits – I was, uhm, let’s say complimented, by the Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Health on my ‘persistence’ in trying to reach him and organise an appointment. It is true that this persistence was sometimes a little stalker-like; contact information is in one way very difficult to find in Haiti for someone who doesn’t have an existing network to start with. Emails come back with messages of error, and phone numbers regularly don’t work or change. With NGOs you don’t know if someone is still in their current job or already in another country (especially after the earthquake where there were many short-term jobs). With the government information online might not be updated, and official email addresses sometimes have full mailboxes, so it’s better if you know someone’s personal email. So this all took a fair amount of browsing NGO contacts database, asking around as I got to know people, and yes, asking Google too.

On the other hand, contact information can be very easy to get when you find the right person – in the case of the Chief of Staff, I had found the number of the previous one, called him, and he kindly gave me the phone number of the actual one. Even better, when I called the actual one, he did not pick up a few times – but then he called my unknown number back. That made my day. Still, the job was not done yet, because though we agreed on a meeting day, we did not have a meeting time until a week later. And then on the day of the meeting I remembered – always call again when you are ready to leave. This proved essential, because he had actually forgotten our appointment in the midst of many. Still, in the end, we had a good meeting, he introduced us to the General Director of the Ministry, who also honoured us by opening the Technical Exchange Meeting the next day.

Dr. Thimothé, Directeur Général MSPP, opening the technical exchange meeting

Now, it’s fun to tell this story with the Chief of Staff, since he’s an extremely busy man and the chance of getting in touch with his counterpart in The Netherlands in the same way is quite small, but it basically took similar exercises to invite others to the meeting. There was one hospital I had had no reaction from, so one day I decided to drop by. Incidentally, this was the day where I really learned to always call again while you are ready to leave; I had gone to the car rental agency without calling in advance, so they didn’t have the documents I needed. We agreed I would come back early the next day. This had been agreed, but I thought ‘let’s call while I’m on the way’. Smart, but not smart enough, because after a half hour drive, I learned the documents would only be there an hour and a half later. I could drive back a half hour, but then would have to turn around immediately again as it is an hour’s drive. Or I could wait there with nothing to do for an hour. Well, luckily, I remembered I was close by this hospital, so I thought at least a few minutes would be well spent by paying their pharmacy a visit. This turned out very well, because the hospital had been having electricity issues, and so the pharmacist hadn’t been able to check her email and know about our invitation!

Anecdotes aside, it ‘all turned out well’. We were particularly happy to have not only NGO’s but also public hospitals, other medicine suppliers, freight forwarders, the government, and the WHO/PAHO’s PROMESS project (which acts as central medical store). The medicines supply chain in Haiti is really not the most efficient right now (post coming up on that), and solutions have to come from all sectors involved. After introductions, we first identified the challenges that the participants were facing, and then we brainstormed for solutions.

Technical exchange meeting on the medicine supply chain in Haiti

Of course, that is only a small first step – then comes the actual work of choosing the most adapted solutions and implementing them, which depends on all actors to play their part. So it was nice that things went smoothly, with good representations from the main actors and constructive discussions, a week later it was a bit of an anti-climax: now what?

Well, that’s for the next post!

Meanwhile, a few more photos from the exchange.

Dr. Klopfenstein presenting the PAHO/WHO PROMESS project

Mme. Joseph presenting the DPM/MT

Making posters to identify and categorise challenges

Groups checking out each others' challenges before plenary discussion

Brainstorming on potential solutions

Edwin de Voogd, IDA Managing Director, gets interviewed

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On the walls: part 3

A few more, I took these this week.

Another 'Jezz'


Marketing within marketing

 Digicel is one of the two main telecom providers here, and an extreme practitioner of marketing. Basically, it’s everywhere: on the walls, on the radio, as a sponsor of most big events.. What I find funny about this wall-advertisement is the way it features other Digicel advertisements – just like on the wall, there are many Digicel umbrellas, backpacks, t-shirts, etc. I haven’t seen a Digicel bench yet though.

Its competitor Voilà is pretty much the same, though a little less. They are two of the largest companies in Haiti, so the extent of their marketing arm is not surprising.

Phone credit is sold on the street by people wearing a kind of apron that signals them as a Digicel or Voilà vendor, respectively red or green (usually they sell both though). This is such a common, typical sight here that a friend told me she would dress up as ‘a Digicel guy’ next Halloween.

Vote Alix!

This one is not that interesting, but it’s funny to see my name tagged on some walls. When I pointed out the apparent fact that I was taking part in the elections to Bastien, he laughed with me: ‘you have become Haitian!’ ‘I’ve also become a man,’ I replied, as the Alix running for député is a man. Actually, most Haitians assume I am one too when we’ve only communicated by email, it’s a guy’s name here.

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