A Personal Message from GFF President Kimberly Green on the Wisdom of Dr. Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl

Partners in Health February 3, 2011
In the decade the Green Family Foundation has been working in Haiti, we have come to know one true, definitive and wise voice the world should hear and learn from: Dr. Paul Farmer.

Farmer's recent interview published in the Los Angeles Times, along with fellow Partners in Health co-founder Ophelia Dahl, is a must-read for anybody currently working in Haiti or thinking about helping Haiti.

We urge you to carefully consider and understand Farmer and Dahl’s message, especially as it relates to public health and the recent cholera outbreak.

Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times:

"Q: Can we trust the ministry of health to be doing these things, how much of this should be done by outside NGOs?

Dahl: You cannot afford not to trust that system…

Farmer: You can’t have public health without a public health system. We just don’t want to be part of a mindless competition for resources. We want to build back capacity in the system.

Dahl: For us to build a separate parallel health system is not doing anything to forward the rights of the Haitian people. Much better to beef up the public health system than to build a separate one.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about the cholera epidemic in Haiti and what treatment you would recommend?

Farmer: There’s been a lot of bogus discussion about this. You can spend half your resources telling people to wash their hands or drink clean water, but if they don’t have access to clean water, it’s a peculiarly noxious way of approaching the problem because you’re basically taking a social problem -- which is lack of access to potable water or municipal water supplies -- and making it a cognitive or psychological problem. It’s a terrible kind of irony…"

Finally, for those looking to help in Haiti, please heed Ophelia Dahl’s advice: "Do a little bit of research into the organizations you’re giving your resources to. Don’t go down and dig pit latrines -- Haitians need those jobs."

GFF has proudly worked with Partners in Health over the years and personally, I am deeply honored to call Dr. Paul Farmer my friend.

Kimberly Green
Green Family Foundation

To read the full article "Q&A: Dr. Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl on recovery efforts in Haiti" -- January 29, 2011 -- Los Angeles Times, click here.

For other resources and must-reads about the amazing work of Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health, visit these sites:

Stand with Haiti – Partners in Health
Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder
The Uses of Haiti, by Dr. Paul Farmer