Florida and Virginia Baptists help prepare Haitian Baptists for COVID-19 outbreak

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PORT-AU-PRINCE–Spared until now with the number of COVID-19 infections in single digits, this past weekend Haiti confirmed almost 40 new infections in just one day.

According to the Miami Herald, new cases of the coronavirus increased from 123 laboratory-confirmed cases on March 8 to 310 as of Friday, May 22. By Saturday, the number had jumped by an additional 48 cases and by Sunday, the number of confirmed infections stood at 456 cases. Of that total, 20 people have died.

In a country with a public health infrastructure that has been weakened by a non-stop succession of crises, a COVID-19 outbreak can be lethal. That is why the Confraternité Missionnaire Baptiste d’Haïti in partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia, is equipping churches with face masks and disinfecting supplies while training pastors on preventive measures.

“The Confraternité Missionnaire Baptiste d’Haïti (CMBH) has already trained hundreds of local church pastors and leaders about ways to prevent and mitigate the coronavirus,” said John Voltaire, Florida Baptists’ Haitian Ministries catalyst. The training, explained Voltaire, was done in groups of ten or less pastors. The trainees were then encouraged to go and train another ten, multiplying their resources by ten-fold.

The Virginia Convention approached Florida Baptists about partnering in this project, Voltaire said. Virginia Baptists are providing liquid bleach and other sanitizing products. They are also giving away food.

Through an initial  grant to the CMBH from the Florida Baptist Convention, thousands of masks will be manufactured and distributed to churches and communities.

“Our goal is to help local churches produce enough facemasks for their members. Since the Haitian government has made wearing facemasks in public mandatory, this effort by the CMBH has become very crucial,” Voltaire said.

The face masks, which are produced by local church members, cost about 40 cents to make each washable, reusable mask. The CMBH provides all the materials to make the masks and in addition pays the producers 25 cents per mask.

More than 20,000 Haitians, according to the International Organization for Migration, have crossed the border from neighboring Dominican Republic and returned to Haiti to escape the COVID-19 outbreak in the Dominican half of Hispaniola. Many of them were sent home by employers who have no work for them. For a country like Haiti, this decrease in employment sources, is a hit to its already fragile economy.

“This process helps the people obtain facemasks for their protection and the opportunity to provide for their families at the same time,” notes Voltaire. “Through the initial grant from Florida Baptists, they plan to manufacture and distribute about 25,000 facemasks through various regions of the country.

“As more people and churches continue to give, CMBH will continue to make more masks available for churches.” 

Churches wishes to donate to this project can contact Voltaire at jvoltaire@flbaptist.org.

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