Mobile veterinary clinics in Haiti

Mobile veterinary clinics in Haiti


By Justine Texier - We’ve arrived in Torbeck, a commune in southern Haiti, which was severely hit by Hurricane Matthew six months ago. Here, as in other departments of the south, people have lost their lives, thousands of houses were damaged, or generally destroyed, thousands of hectares of crops and trees were lost, and thousands of animals perished, and those that survived are often sick.

Animals, namely cows, are an important part of Haitian farmers’ production activities, representing their main source of income and savings. We are here, in Torbeck, to spend two days with FAO’s livestock and dairy sector team and assist the mobile veterinary clinics.

I am not a veterinarian, nor a health worker, I cannot make any diagnosis, of course, but the cows I see around me are thin. Ms Patu Shang, who is the coordinator of the FAO project focusing on setting up these clinics and is in charge of the dairy sector, explains that the animals who managed to survive very often have symptoms of diseases or vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

When we’ve reached the field where the mobile veterinary clinic is set up, many small-scale breeders are already there ‒ at least 20 ‒ and I see others approaching with their cows. This is only the beginning as the clinic will be travelling within the commune of Torbeck for three days.

How it works

FAO’s two veterinarians, a Haitian, Mr Destines Plonquet, and a Cuban, Mr Pedro Diaz Rodriguez, are there and begin to explain to community veterinarians what type of veterinary services will be provided to the animals during today’s clinic. The South-South cooperation works perfectly, Pedro speaks Spanish and Destines translates directly into Creole. Music to my ears. Currently, Haiti has very few public veterinarians ‒ about 40 ‒ who will not be able to save all the animals that were affected by the Hurricane and the weeks of drought that followed. FAO’s support in collaboration with the Directorate of Animal Production of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development takes on its full meaning.

Each mobile veterinary clinic consists of a veterinarian and two veterinary officers who travel to the affected areas to conduct animal health and nutrition assessments and provide preventive care and treatment. Today’s clinic is exceptional, being the first since the Hurricane. Two veterinarians and about 15 veterinary officers attend this pilot clinic. Each clinic disposes of a veterinary kit composed of antibiotics, deworming medication, multivitamins and equipment such as ropes, sprayers, gloves and syringes.

Training and participatory approach

Veterinary officers have been designated by the partner NGO and previously trained on veterinary treatment techniques or provided by FAO. These trainings allow them to improve their knowledge and know-how, and ensure the project’s sustainability. The mobile clinics are organized after planning with the representatives of the breeders of targeted communes. The veterinarians and veterinary officers travel to provide veterinary care to the animals of breeders in a preselected site.

Accessing veterinary services

Access to veterinary services is key for healthier animals, the main source of food and income for food insecure farmers affected by Hurricane Matthew.

We’ve spoken a lot with small-scale breeders who have come to have their animals treated. “Hurricane Mathew took five of my cows, as well as sheep and goats, not to mention all the fodder that I lost. This is the first time that I’ve received this type of assistance that will improve the health of my animals. Veterinary care is usually very costly. Sometimes I spent up to HTG 2 500 (USD 36) ‒ which is quite expensive, taking into account that nearly 6 million Haitians live with less than USD 2.5 a day ‒ to treat a cow; and we don’t have veterinarians in the community. This is why I am pleased with the support that I received from FAO that will help to restore my livestock activities and take care of my animals”, says Joril Gilles.

We also spoke to Juceline Philippe Beauvoir, a veterinary officer and president of the milk producers association of Torbeck (APWOLETO). “After the Hurricane, many herders have lost their animals and those that survived are malnourished due to the drought, lack of feed and the high costs or unavailability of veterinary supplies. FAO is the only organization to provide veterinary treatments for our animals. These mobile clinics are of paramount importance. We could not afford to pay for a private veterinarian for these types of services”.