PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — Serious injuries and deaths are commonplace on the streets of Haiti’s capital, thanks to frequent road accidents.
Ready to take matters into their own hands, a group of young adults gathered together in a former military hospital.
Their goal: Learn first aid.
“I’ve seen too many people suffer during accidents, and this has motivated me to get involved in order to help them,” says Marie Esther Jean, 21, a participant in the training.
Led by STOP Accidents, a local non-governmental organization, the training covers the basics of emergency care, from CPR and improvised bandages to massive bleeding and decision-making in a crisis.
“I always complain about the majority of our young people here using their mobile phones to film instead of helping by calling an ambulance,” Jean says. “It’s well known that a victim needs assistance, not photography or video.”
Road safety activists say that trainings like these empower bystanders to help in the aftermath of a car crash.
“This can help many people to avoid death in accidents,” Jean says, adding that she tells friends they should also learn first aid to be ready help next time they come upon a road accident.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, young people make up more than 30% of the Haitian population. And young people are often directly involved in car accidents, STOP Accidents coordinator Garnel Michel says.
“They are the most likely to help or the most likely to be involved,” he says.
Since 2016, STOP Accidents, officially called Services Techniques et Opérationnels pour Pallier aux Accidents, has led educational and awareness campaigns that promote safety for all road users. But because the first few minutes after a crash are critical, the organization has targeted the country’s large youth population with a message: Be part of the informal first line of medical response and save lives.
There is no reliable data on the number of road accidents that occur in Haiti. Drivers and pedestrians often blame the erratic driving of motorcycle taxis and the poor condition of roads here. Other complications include slow arrival times from emergency responders.
Currently, the group runs four youth first-aid training clubs with more than 50 members each.
Coordinators plan to establish more clubs in remote corners of the country where formal aid might be particularly slow to arrive.
Giving young people the skills to offer immediate assistance after a crash could make a difference, says Luckner Dorvelus, a medical doctor who is also the training and research director at STOP Accidents.
“Given the weakness of the Haitian medical system, we’ve decided not only to raise awareness, but also to consider providing training to people who sometime take pleasure in doing nothing to help people in need of assistance,” Dorvelus says.
After a recent training, participant Orline Steril says she feels empowered by her new skills.
“Accidents can happen any time,” she says. “This training will allow me to be of help to my community.”
Ndahayo Sylvestre, GPJ, translated the article from French.