Good News: Meet the Doctor Fighting Cholera in Haiti Despite Worsening Conditions

This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization, working side-by-side with local health workers and communities to save lives and improve the health and well-being of people around the world.

Learn more about Project HOPE

Dr. Dr. Regine Necessaire and Project HOPE CEO Rabih Torbay speak to a man in Haiti
This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

Haiti has a long and heartbreaking history with cholera — a digestive infection caused by contaminated food or water — totaling in over 10,000 deaths from the disease between October 2010 and February 2019. 

The first outbreak in Haiti arrived shortly after a catastrophic earthquake killed over 200,000 people and displaced over one million residents, and it took over a decade before Haiti was considered “cholera-free.”

Between January 2019 and January 2022, Haiti reported zero cases of the illness. 

This streak was maintained for about three years until breakthrough cases made their way back into the country during the fall of 2022.

“The ongoing social unrest has negatively affected public health infrastructure, creating an environment that has facilitated the current resurgence and associated high mortality across the country,” a January 2023 report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reads.

“In addition, recent fuel shortages have hindered water treatment efforts and other cholera response activities nationwide. These factors have reduced the supply of safe drinking water, forcing an increasing number of residents to rely on unsafe sources and untreated water, substantially worsening the cholera outbreak and hindering the response.” 

Now a mounting epidemic, combined with horrific climate disasters, Haitians are confronted with deadly infrastructural damage and a public health crisis only worsened by recent catastrophes.

On June 3, severe flooding impacted nearly 40,000 households in Haiti’s Ouest and Sud-Est regions, and just three days later, on June 6, a 4.9 magnitude earthquake rocked southern Haiti, near Jérémie, a commune with a population of about 30,000.

Not only did these disasters threaten the lives and resources of Haitians, but they also impacted a number of cholera treatment centers in the region.

A nurse walks through a cholera treatment center in Haiti
Cholera Treatment Center at Saint Antoine Hospital in Jeremie. Photo courtesy of Nadia Todres/Project HOPE

Assessments from humanitarian organization Project HOPE indicate that at least three hospitals and three medical centers were flooded, a number of regions were quickly without operational cholera treatment centers, and ongoing violence and trauma pervade the affected areas. 

While deeply devastating, humanitarians have shown up eager to help and bring people to safety.

One doctor in particular has dedicated her life to using her expertise in medicine on the front lines of humanitarian crises. And in a time where many healthcare professionals are fleeing Haiti for better opportunities, she has committed to serving her home country.

Dr. Regine Necessaire, the site lead for Project HOPE’s office in Jérémie, has wanted to work in medicine since she was a little girl in Port-au-Prince. 

Dr. Regine Necessaire wears a Project HOPE vest, a yellow headband with a bow on it, and gold earrings.
Dr. Regine Necessaire. Photo courtesy of Nadia Todres/Project HOPE

Two major events had led her to this discovery: a human biology class in elementary school, and an experience in referring car accident victims to a nearby hospital when she was just 10 years old.

“I was deeply moved by the organization of the medical staff in the emergency department taking care of the injured,” Necessaire told Good Good Good. “This last event reinforced my burning desire to study medicine and become a doctor, in order to relieve patients’ suffering.” 

After she completed her education, she made the firm resolution to work with a humanitarian organization and found a home with Project HOPE. 

Dr. Dr. Regine Necessaire and Project HOPE CEO Rabih Torbay speak to a man in Haiti
Project HOPE CEO Rabih Torbay and Dr. Necessaire speak with a community member in Haiti. Photo courtesy of Nadia Todres/Project HOPE

“This first opportunity marked the beginning of the realization of my dream to serve vulnerable communities affected by various shocks,” she said. 

Necessaire leads a multidisciplinary team of 68 support staff and consultants who specialize in the country’s cholera response, medical, water, sanitation and hygiene services, human resources, finance, and more. 

On the day of the earthquake, the 33-year-old doctor leapt to action.

In a crowded room, Dr. Necessaire helps a patient in distress.
Dr. Necessaire helps patients in the immediate aftermath of the June 6 earthquake. Photo courtesy of Project HOPE

“As the site lead, in charge of the Jérémie base, everything came to my mind as soon as the shock passed, and I called everyone in my team to know if they were alright,” she recalled. “I really called them one by one. I was so worried.”

Once she confirmed the status of her team, Necessaire, clad in a utilitarian emergency uniform, began treating patients herself at 6 a.m. 

In the weeks following, she and her team — with members from Project HOPE, as well as Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health & Population — have continued leading the humanitarian response in the Grand ‘Anse Department. 

While Project HOPE’s main efforts in the area started with the distribution of cholera kits across affected areas, the flooding and earthquake have ushered in rapidly shifting needs. 

Dr. Necessaire and another Project HOPE team member bend down and speak to a Haitian woman sitting in a chair.
Dr. Necessaire and other Project HOPE team members work day in and out to help Haitians in need. Photo courtesy of Nadia Todres/Project HOPE

Now, the organization is supporting the Saint Antoine Hospital with medical supplies, allowing medical professionals to treat hundreds of additional patients impacted by the earthquake. 

And every day, Necessaire leads her response team, in conducting humanitarian needs assessments, distributing hygiene kits, and working with local partners to provide care to bring her fellow Haitians to safety and stability. 

“When I showed up, many others had come to respond to the emergency, as well, and that made me feel good that we had so many people who cared and wanted to do something,” Necessaire said, recounting her experience at the hospital the day of the earthquake. “I enjoy taking care of others.”

Article Details

June 29, 2023 6:30 AM
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