Mark your calendars to join the MFK team and our host, Jeff Civillico, on February 19, 2022 at 6:30 PM (CST) for an exciting evening of updates on our work and plans for the future. We are deeply grateful for the partnership of our donors and friends who make our mission possible.
What is rara? Rara is a form of festival music that originated in the late 1700s for street processions that took place as a reminder to the Haitian people that no matter how difficult their current situation was, there were still reasons to be grateful. In order to gain independence, Haitian slaves fought literally during the Haitian Revolution and culturally, through art, music and dance forms. The Rara tradition is still alive and well in Haiti, and continues to represent the strength and spirit of the country.
Please visit our event page to get more information, view sponsorship opportunities, and RSVP!
Can't make the gala, but still want to help us reach our $500,000 fundraising goal? Donate online!
MFK is celebrating the new year-- fiscal new year, that is. Like many organizations, our fiscal year runs from October to September. With the start of each year comes evaluations on the previous year and setting goals for the next. MFK is committed to investing in the achievement of its mission and vision by saving the lives of vulnerable people while producing Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and supplementation products every single day. Thanks to generous donations, MFK clinic partners have saved the lives of many children and mothers throughout Haiti during a particularly difficult year. We are very thankful to everyone who contributed to achieving our mission over the past year and hope in the next we will only continue to reduce the level of malnutrition in Haiti. MFK will continue to produce and distribute Mamba Janm and Medika Mamba to prevent and treat children and mothers, and train more medical teams on the malnutrition protocol of the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Haiti (MSPP).
MFK supports seventeen local clinics by providing and delivering products for programs each week. In the past year, MFK's Nurse Educator trained a total of sixty-one nurses and health agents to assure the malnutrition and nursing supplementation programs were able to provide the best care possible. These education sessions give knowledge and skills for those who attended to be confident in their care while working in accordance with the malnutrition protocol of the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Haiti (MSPP). Meds & Food for Kids is very grateful for the work done by the nurses from partner clinics over the past year.
Phedeline Bien-Aimé is a registered nurse at the Pro-Famille clinic, one of the partner clinics located in the Fort St-Michel area. Phedeline has been engaged in the fight against malnutrition since March 2019. When she started in the program it was almost non-existent, but thanks to her work plan it became very successful in the Fort St-Michel area. At the time she started with the clinic there was only one child actively in the program, but in just one month she had admitted more than fifty moderate and severely malnourished children to the program. Every week, Phedeline goes to Fort St-Michel areas, specifically near the sea where there are many malnourished children. Every Friday, the day parents have appointments in the clinic, and she organizes an education session on nutritional topics which are very important in preventing malnutrition and diseases due to malnutrition.
''Thanks to MFK, I have knowledge and skills in the MSPP malnutrition protocol which makes me very happy. It's a very great experience for my nursing career. I was so excited to attend the day so I could be trained by MFK's nutrition department before starting this amazing role in saving desperately hungry and sick children with MFK's Medika Mamba. It was my first experience running the malnutrition program. It's my dream to take part in this great fight against malnutrition in my country. Before starting, I visited and spoke with the families and invited them to the clinics for screening. I am enjoying seeing malnourished children saved from malnutrition after receiving Medika Mamba. Thanks to MFK, malnourished children in the Fort St. Michel area will have a second chance to survive while hoping that partnership will be in the future" Phedeline shared.
Thomas Baptiste graduated from MFK’s Farmer Training Program in July 2021. Speaking for all participants during the graduation, Mr. Baptiste said: “We learned a lot of new things during the program, and there are things that we used to do that we will never do the same way again.”
Mr. Baptiste is 67 years old and has been doing farming activities since he was 19. “I have to say that farming is a family thing, I was born and raised in the countryside, growing up seeing my parents doing the same activities to feed me and my siblings,” he said.
Mr. Baptiste is from a small community in the area of Ouanaminthe, right on the border of the Dominican Republic, called Savane Longue. Savane Longue is home to less than 10,000 people, with agriculture as the main economic activity in the area, it is a beautiful small community located in the northeast region of Haiti. Mr. Baptiste has lived there for his whole life, where he also raised his 5 children (all boys) with his wife. “Here in Savane Longue, we cultivate different crops such as plantain, sugar cane, cassava roots, beans, sweet potatoes but peanuts remain the crops we get much revenue from,” Mr. Baptiste said. “I raised all five of my children with money generated from farming activities, farming is my life,” he added.
In the past, Haiti was called "the pearl of the West Indies''. Now, Haiti is classified among the poorest countries in the world due to deep political crises, social, and economic situations. Just this past year the country has dealt with political unrest, earthquakes, the assassination of the president, and COVID-19 which impacted the population and their health. These are affecting all Haitians and more specifically children between 6 months to 5 years old. Pregnant and lactating women are also greatly impacted, resulting in more cases of malnutrition and death among expecting mothers.
There are many organizations that are working in Haiti, and as cases of severe and acute malnutrition continue to rise, Meds & Food for Kids stays committed to stand by the most vulnerable group-- children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women. In January 2020, through the SMART nutritional survey, the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Haiti (MSPP) noticed that the rate of acute malnutrition has increased from 4% to 6%. After the last earthquakes occurred in the southern peninsula of Haiti on August 14, 2021, we can predict that the Haitian malnutrition level is susceptible to continue to increase.
MFK is involved in producing life-saving products in our factory in Quartier Morin, a community in northern Haiti, for feeding pregnant and nursing women, treating malnourished children, and others who are nutritionally vulnerable. MFK's work within the malnutrition programs is also dedicated to supporting clinic partners and MSPP as much as possible. After the devastating earthquakes in the southern peninsula, MFK is involved in supporting the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Haiti (MSPP) with Plumpy Doz (Mamba Janm) and Medika Mamba to prevent and treat malnutrition for those in need.
On September 1st, 2021, MFK's nutrition department trained ten nurses and health agents to ensure the pregnant and breastfeeding women enrolled in the supplementation program are set up for success. It was a great moment. We discussed the supplementation protocol, the essential nutritional needs, before, during and the lactating period, weight control, PB, blood pressure, eclampsia, and the other topics that are very important to a mother’s health. There are currently 6 clinic partners are enrolled in MFK’s Prenatal Supplementation Program, and we hope we will be able to have the additional clinics next year to prevent malnutrition in other areas. In just one week, we have enrolled more than 250 pregnant and nursing women in the program, and we will continue this amazing work to save more babies from malnutrition, from conception through the first 6 months.
One of the women enrolled in MFK's Prenatal Supplementation Program in the Fort Bourgeois-ULS clinic is Annite. (pictured in post.) She is 32 years old, and a mother of 5 who lives with her husband and children in the Fort Bourgeois community of Cap-Haitian. She was admitted to the program to receive Mamba Janm, also called Plumpy Doz, during the pregnancy period. Annite delivered a beautiful baby girl healthy. In only 20 days post-delivery, her baby girl weighed a healthy 8.8lbs. She is able to breastfeed while eating Mamba Janm every day with her usual home food.
"Being admitted to the program and receiving Mamba Janm is very helpful for my baby and me because every day I am sure to have something to eat before lunch. This food gives me strength and contributes to my daily vitamins that are very important for my baby's health. I really like the taste. I believe that my baby will grow up healthy while I am eating Mamba Janm every day. Thanks to MFK's Mamba Janm, the pregnant women in the Fort Bourgeois area will prevent malnutrition and give birth to healthy babies", Annite says.
Every day in Haiti the Meds & Food for Kids staff and malnutrition program partners work hard to accomplish MFK's goals. They are always working to help malnourished children by distributing our therapeutic foods to prevent and treat acute malnutrition; Medika Mamba, Mamba Janm, and other health nutritional products for saving lives.
"In the Bahon community at the health agent’s clinic, we hope that all of our malnourished children will be saved with this miracle product which is called Medika Mamba,'' says one of Bahon's health agents, Cyliac. "Sometimes we do not go out to invite them to come for screening of the malnutrition, but the people hear about us and just decide to come on their own with their children. For example, one child, Nelson, came with his grandmother to spend time at Danita's Children because she realized that her child’s health was complicated with a severe acute malnutrition," Cyliac continue.
Meds & Food for Kids’ strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency has once again earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. This is the 8th consecutive year that Meds & Food for Kids has earned this top distinction. Only 6% of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator have received at least 8 consecutive 4-star evaluations.
Since 2002, using objective analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics, focused on governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, to its ratings methodology. These Accountability & Transparency metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities operate in accordance with industry best practices and whether they are open with their donors and stakeholders. On June 1, 2016, Charity Navigator upgraded its methodology for rating each charity’s financial health with CN 2.1. These enhancements further substantiates the financial health of charities awarded a four-star rating.
In a letter to MFK, Charity Navigator President Michael Thatcher wrote, “We are proud to announce Meds & Food for Kids has earned our eighth consecutive 4-star rating. This is our highest possible rating and indicates that your organization adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way. Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that Meds & Food for Kids exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work. ...This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets Meds & Food for Kids apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.”
Meds & Food for Kids’ rating and other information about charitable giving are available on www.charitynavigator.org.
About Charity Navigator
Charity Navigator,www.charitynavigator.org, is the largest charity evaluator in America and its website attracts more visitors than all other charity rating groups combined. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency of more than 8,000 charities. Charity Navigator accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data. As a result, Charity Navigator, a 501 (c) (3) public charity itself, depends on support from individuals, corporations, and foundations that believe it provides a much-needed service to America's charitable givers. Charity Navigator can be reached directly by telephone at (201) 818-1288, or by mail at 139 Harristown Road, Suite 101, Glen Rock, N.J., 07452.
The first part of the peanut harvesting season has officially started in Haiti. Despite very little rainfall at the beginning of the planting season, Haitian farmers have worked tirelessly to have good crops. They wasted no time to plant despite the drought. For many of them, it is not a choice but a must. They have to plant, whether they have had enough rainfall or not because they rely entirely on agricultural activities to survive and feed their family. With limited irrigation infrastructure in Haiti, farmers rely on rainfall to water their fields.
MFK remains a proud partner of peanut smallholders and farmers throughout the country. Through non-profit organizations, for-profit enterprises, and farmer’s co-ops, Meds and Food for Kids sources thousands of metric tons of local peanuts to produce our life-saving peanut butter medicine. This strategy fits well within MFK’s mission to contribute to the economic development of the country.
From COVID-19 to political instability, to the assassination of the president, to the recent earthquake in the southern part of Haiti, the country has gone through so much during the year 2021. Haitian peanut farmers have shown that there is hope. MFK Agriculture is excited to announce that MFK signed its biggest contract to buy local peanuts from Haitian farmers and local enterprises. MFK is committed to purchasing 138 metric tons (MT) of peanuts from local provided that will be delivered between the months of August 2021 to December 2021. 25 metric tons have already been delivered to MFK in the month of August. MFK partners with the non-profit organization IF Foundation located in Milot, which manages a network of more than 500 peanut farmers in the north to provide good quality peanuts with low aflatoxin levels. MFK also partners with Acceso Haiti which is a for-profit supply chain social enterprise that works with smallholder farmers in order to improve their livelihoods. And finally, MFK partners with a few farmer’s co-ops in the north region and private farms to source good quality peanuts.
This is extremely important for MFK because it has been years that MFK was unable to purchase more than 50 metric tons of peanuts per year. Several reasons explain this-- from year to year, farmers may have bad seasons due to drought or too much rain, or the quality of the peanuts does not meet MFK’s standard, or the peanuts are highly contaminated with aflatoxin, a toxin that can affect people’s health. The MFK Agriculture department was created with the mission to train Haitian peanut farmers on the proper way to plant peanuts and take care of the peanuts post harvests to avoid contamination. MFK is proud to see that the efforts that the organization has made in the past several years are bearing fruit.
MFK is excited to be able to locally source more raw materials in the country which in turn benefits the economic development of the country and reduces the number of peanuts MFK has to import yearly. Each week now, a truck full of local peanuts is being delivered at MFK. MFK agronomists will test the peanuts to make sure that they are of the highest quality and then send them to the production team. MFK has already purchased 45 MT of peanuts between January 2021 to June 2021. We believe this additional purchase of 138 MT is very impactful, as agriculture plays a vital role in the country's economy. MFK remains hopeful that with extensive training and adequate support from the government and other NGOs present in the country, local farmers can continue to achieve great success.
On behalf of the MFK staff, board members, and the thousands of Haitian families and children impacted by the work we do, thank you for your concern and support over the last two weeks. UNICEF reports an estimated 650,000 people — including 260,000 children — are in need of food, basic sanitation, hygiene, and water. Over 53,000 homes are estimated to be destroyed, leaving most families no choice but to sleep in the streets. The need in the aftermath of the earthquake and tropical storm is only growing.
Many of the communities in the southern peninsula of Haiti lie in mountainous, remote areas. The landslides and debris resulting from the earthquake and the tropical storm have obstructed the few roads, including Route National #7, which connects the southern cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie, reports Haiti's Civil Protection Agency.
Thanks to your incredible generosity, MFK has been able to supply an initial 150,000 sachets of Plumpy’Doz, our Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food. Plumpy’Doz is formulated to prevent malnutrition in children 6 months and older, and can also be used as a maintenance product for children at risk of falling into more severe malnutrition. It is also suitable as a supplement for people of all ages needing nutritious food in emergency situations, such as the current reality in Haiti.
To ensure our products reach the Haitians who need them, MFK is working directly with the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Haiti (MSPP) for distribution. We know from our 18 years in Haiti collaborating with them that MSPP has the most established and efficient distribution channels across the country.
While we hold a place in our hearts for the joy that comes from helping others, we simultaneously remind ourselves that this help will be needed for many months to come. UNICEF predicts that Haitian children’s susceptibility to malnutrition will increase in the upcoming weeks. We sincerely thank you, very much, for your generosity that enables our team in Cap-Haitien to continue producing our life-saving products.
We appreciate all the expressions of concern we’ve heard from so many of you after Saturday’s earthquake and Monday’s tropical storm. As of this morning, there are 2,189 confirmed dead and over 12,000 injured from these natural disasters, according to Haiti's Civil Protection Agency.
The earthquake in Haiti’s southern peninsula has left residents without access to food, water and hospital care. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million Haitians have been affected, including 540,000 children, and that more than 84,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed. Broken water pipes have washed out homes, leaving many families without shelter, in the middle of hurricane season. The main supermarket in Les Cayes, the largest town nearest the epicenter, collapsed. The many small markets residents rely on for produce, pantry staples and household supplies toppled.
Tropical Storm Grace has caused flooding and debris on the roadways. Haiti's Civil Protection Agency reports that Route National #7, which connects the southern cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie, has been completely blocked by the landslide. Blocked roads and damaged hospitals will strain health care in the region for many months, just as Haiti was starting to receive COVID vaccinations.
MFK’s factory team in Cap Haitien have been spared, feeling only tremors and aftershocks. Our factory and infrastructure are undamaged. However, we have heard from many of the clinics we supply that they urgently need the RUTF products we make at our factory. Our products allow them to care for the unexpected spike in hunger and food instability that the earthquake has caused.
The MFK team is working to coordinate delivery of our nutritious foods with our partners in the southern regions, as well as working directly with the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Haiti (MSPP) to ensure the resources reach those in need in the most efficient way.
Your donations will help us send emergency stores of nutritious foods that will ensure that the people affected by the earthquake will have the life-sustaining nutrition they need.
On behalf of the staff, board members and the thousands of Haitian families and children impacted by the work we do, thank you for your generous support.
Meds & Food for Kids
Even as Haiti plunged deeper into crisis after the assassination of the president on July 7th, Meds & Food for Kids’ commitment to be by the side of the most vulnerable remained unchanged. From training healthcare workers to treat malnutrition, providing school kids with nutritious snacks to prevent malnutrition, to teaching farmers how to improve the quality and quantity of their crop yield, MFK has always stood by the most vulnerable people in Haiti.
On July 18th, 2021 the MFK Agriculture team proudly graduated a group of peanut farmers from two local communities in the North of Haiti: Savane Longue and Prevoyance. 45 farmers proudly crossed the stage to receive their certificates. These farmers were trained by MFK agronomists on a wide variety of topics including soil preparation, soil conservation, and erosion, crop rotation and mixed garden, aflatoxin control pre and post-harvest. The training also included group discussion and technical in-field activities.
The ceremony of recognition was held in the farmers’ community, in the presence of local authorities, MFK staff, and some local performers. James Blanc, MFK’s Agriculture Program Manager, spoke on behalf of MFK and highlighted the importance of this training for MFK and MFK’s long-term vision to see a better Haiti, with a stable economy, and trained farmers being able to not only increase their production but improve the quality as well. By increasing production and improving the quality of their products, they will make more money which in return can improve their livelihoods.
Local authorities who spoke at the event thanked MFK for the long-time partnership between MFK and these small communities. “This training is so meaningful to us in the community, and this is one of the best things that could happen for us over the last 30 years”, claims Antoine Milhomme, the casec (member of the Board of Communal Secton) of Savane Longue. Jocelyn Desamours, a graduate from Prevoyance, spoke on behalf of all graduates and thanked MFK for putting forward all their resources available to train them, they learn a lot of new things and he promises that they will do a lot of things differently from the past. Mr. Desamours also thanked the MFK’s agronomists who crossed roadblocks, faced riots to come to train them. It was a great moment to share a meal together and recognize the hard work of these farmers to provide food on our plates and provide for their families.
What’s next for these farmers? MFK’s mission does not stop after the graduation of this group. The graduates will become part of MFK’s certified farmer’s network, and as members, they will be able to sell high-quality peanuts for MFK’s production of RUTF snacks to treat malnutrition. MFK will also continue to work in these communities by recruiting additional groups and expanding the program to nearby communities. This would not be possible without the help of our donors. We would like to take this time to thank everyone who has been helping this organization. Your generosity is helping to save lives in Haiti and strengthen the local economy.
In Haiti, every single day is a new challenge. We press on even amid the tragedy that we are currently facing. We cannot just hope for a better tomorrow but continue to work hard today, as the Créole proverb says, "pa konte sou demen. (Don't count on tomorrow.) The Haitian health conditions continue to become more complicated every day. As a result, there are more cases of malnourished children as they have very little health support and access to food. MFK's team is always working hard to give a second chance to any child who is sick or malnourished. A sachet of Medika Mamba can make all the difference in saving their life.
The nutrition team at MFK is dedicated to the mission and committed to following up with all the partner clinics consistently every month. This results in many important findings on the success of nutrition education classes, health screenings, malnutrition prevention, and the treatment of children who are malnourished. In addition, the team follows up with clinics involved with the prenatal program-- checking in on the supplementation of pregnant and nursing women, as well as the evaluation and training of nurses and health agents to keep their health knowledge up to date.
Our partner clinic New Hope Hospital is located in the Plaine-du-Nord community in Northern, Haiti. MFK works with New Hope Hospital by providing Medika Mamba donations to treat malnutrition and operate the malnutrition program. The nurse and health agents who run the weekly program also organize one big children's screening day every month. They have adopted many practices to ensure the people understand the important health and nutritional topics to prevent malnutrition and feed their children properly. They are committed “to educate and screen as many children as possible to decrease malnutrition levels in Plaine du Nord".
One of the children in the community the program had a part in helping was Cephora. Cephora was recently treated for severe acute malnutrition at Profamille, another MFK clinic partner, located in Cap-Haitien at Fort St-Michel. Every Friday their clinic nurse runs the malnutrition program in partnership with MFK.
At 7 months old and just 6.6 lbs, Cephora was admitted for severe acute malnutrition with diarrhea, fever, and no appetite. Cephora's mother was very worried about her baby. Cephora's mom came to Profamille’s clinic with her baby for screening at the advice of a neighbor. At the first assisted education session, Kinderlie, Cephora's Mother, realized that she misunderstood many things on how to properly feed her baby girl. Cephora received the nutrition treatment and liked how Medika Mamba tasted. After spending 12 weeks in the malnutrition program, she was discharged at a healthier weight of 13.2 lbs.
"My baby girl's face and health were transformed, she looks like a different girl-- energized, full of joy, and playful. She can sit up on her own while she will be able to grow up healthier thanks to MFK’s Medika Mamba that we are so grateful for," added Kinderlie.
Dear Friends of MFK and Haiti,
The Haitian President’s assassination was a tragedy, and we grieve with the people of Haiti. MFK nevertheless remains optimistic about the future of Haiti, and is committed to the voiceless people of Haiti who have nowhere else to live, few opportunities for employment and not enough food for their children.
Since I first visited Haiti in 1988 there has been much turmoil, many natural disasters and ongoing political change. But everything (except Mother Nature) has improved in these last 33 years. Because of the resilience and hard work of Haitians, MFK is optimistic about the future. Today we are continuing to produce Medika Mamba in our factory and keeping our eyes on the security situation to be certain that all of our employees are safe. Luckily, we are situated far from the chaos of Port au Prince.
More than ever, Haiti needs our support and partnership. And more than ever, MFK needs your support and partnership so that we can continue to fulfill our mission to save lives and help build a better future. Thank you all for your compassionate concern and support of Haiti’s poorest people.
As they say in Haiti “Kenbe fem.” Stay the course, stay strong.
With much gratitude,
Founder, Senior Advisor
Ezaie is and an only child who lives with his parents in Plaine-du-Nord, just under 10 miles from Cap-Haitien. Ezaie's family is supported by his father, who is a farmer with a small income. His mother stays at home to care for the whole family. Ezaie was born at home and was not able to be fed with breast milk due to his mother falling sick with an unknown illness after delivering him.
At 6 months old, Ezaie’s health became complicated-- and after several unsuccessful appointments and assessments by doctors, Ezaie's situation did not improve. One day, a friend of Ezaie's family suggested his father go to CHIDA hospital in Balan, where he was evaluated by a doctor who referred him to the malnutrition program through MFK's partner clinic for screening. This malnutrition program in the Balan community has been very helpful to the community and has saved the lives of many malnourished children in this zone. Thanks to MFK and Medika Mamba, between October 2018 and 2021 the rate of the death of malnutrition has decreased in the area.
Ezaie was screened for severe acute malnutrition and admitted to the CHIDA malnutrition program at just 12.1 lbs. He was then enrolled in the malnutrition program and received Medika Mamba for the 10-week duration of his treatment. His parent also participated in nutrition and health education classes during the course of his treatment. At 15 months of age, Ezaie graduated from the program at a healthier weight of 15.4 lbs.
Every beneficiary at CHIDA hospital is grateful for the malnutrition program and supply of Medika Mamba from MFK, especially Ezaie's mom. "I have a new baby from this product called Medika Mamba, it was a miracle treatment for my baby's life," she added.
The past year has been tumultuous for the entire world, including MFK. Throughout, we’ve been able to continue producing, distributing, and treating children in Haiti – thanks in large part to your continued support of our work, for children who desperately need our help. We are mentoring smallholder farmers and providing stable employment for our employees. In fact, in the first nine months of the current fiscal year we outpaced our record-breaking production in 2020 with 1,074,645 million kilos of Ready-to-Use Foods.
We are thankful for your partnership. As our partner, we would like to update you on a management change: we have accepted the resignation of CEO Angela Brown Gilliam. This is not the outcome we hoped for, but we know Angela will continue to support MFK’s work. The MFK Board and I are fully committed to launching a new CEO search and will strategize with the search firm to identify the right leader for the organization’s next season of growth.
Continuity is crucial to the lives of the children we serve, so we are pleased to announce that the board has elected Suzanne Langlois as interim CEO beginning July 1, 2021. Suzanne joined the MFK board in 2010 and has served on the Development, Governance, and CEO Search Committees. In recent years, she has been Secretary of the board and serves on the Executive Committee.
In her professional life, Suzanne is the co-founder and former co-owner of Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company – a roaster and regional wholesaler of specialty coffee; and Kaldi’s Coffeehouse – cafes offering coffee beverages and eclectic fare. She currently teaches entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.
The St. Louis and Haiti staffs are supportive of these decisions and will ensure a smooth transition. Angela will remain on our team for the next six weeks to transfer knowledge, make introductions and offer assistance where needed.
Thank you for all that you do to help MFK save lives and improve livelihoods for Haiti’s people. Please let me know if you have any questions.
In many cases, internships help students gain career experience that serves them for the whole of their professional careers. At Meds & Food for Kids (MFK), I have been recruited since April for a professional work and research program in agriculture. Being an agronomist, I have offered my skills to help accomplish the mission of MFK in making the gold standard of Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). MFK makes products in Haiti, using Haitian workers and, whenever possible, Haitian raw materials. Since being founded in 2003, MFK’s RUTF, Medika Mamba (Haitian Creole for “peanut butter medicine”) has already saved the lives of over 530,000 children.
In the agriculture department, we work with many kinds of farmers and peanut producers. This helps us grow our network and meet peanut providers, gets us in touch with people from rural areas, expands research, and increases knowledge of agricultural practices through farmer education. We plan agriculture activities, practice planting common seeds, and are introduced to other peanut seeds popularized by the local government. We are responsible for buying and testing peanuts before use in the factory, supervising peanuts that are sampled, sorting, and checking humidity control before tested aflatoxin content. We also assist with planting for farmers and peanut producers in rural areas, helping the providers get more peanuts to the local market.
As an intern, I was limited in my own responsibilities, but there was always something to assist with as my direct supervisor is always very busy on site. In my months at MFK, I have learned a lot of things that will serve me in my career in the future, such as spending time in the laboratory learning about quality tests, environment test control, and water quality. It was a very great experience. I have really appreciated the support of my supervisor; he took the time to introduce me to many kinds of experimental sectors in the industry. I really want to take the time to say thank you to the MFK staff for this beautiful experience and I hope for a partnership in the future.
In Haiti the current rate of COVID-19 cases is high, only further contributing to unrest on the island. This also means that the situation of malnutrition has and will continue to become more complicated. MFK and its local clinical partners are continuing to work every day to provide education to parents to prevent COVID-19 through keeping social distance, wearing masks, and washing hands while still treating malnutrition.
This month two twins recovered from malnutrition; Fransline and Franslin. The twins are 17 months old and living in Chabanon, a small community of Limonade close to the sea which is named Bord de mer de Limonade (Seaside Limonade), approximately twenty minutes from the MFK factory. The main resources in this zone are bananas, sugar cane, mangos, and beautiful peach trees. Unfortunately, it is still one of the zones where the malnutrition levels are the highest. Every month, MFK works with clinic partner Flamboyant to enroll more than fifty new children in the malnutrition program.
Fransline and Franslin are the youngest in a family of five children. Their father Francique is a fisherman with a small income, while their mother, Germaine, stays at home to take care of the whole family. During her pregnancy, Germaine had visited a doctor at Limonade health clinic to have control of her babies but she planned to deliver at home. Franslin was born at home, while Fransline was born at Justinian Hospital. The twins were breastfed for the first month and were able to receive their complete vaccine doses.
At 8 months old, the babies became sick and developed diarrhea, fever, and low appetite. Germaine went with them to the Flamboyant community clinic, where they were screened for severe acute malnutrition. After one week of starting their Medika Mamba treatment, their health situation became more complicated, so the nurse referred them to Justinian Hospital for better medical assistance. There they spent 14 days in a USN room.
Fransline and Franslin were discharged from Justinian Hospital and then returned to the Flamboyant malnutrition program after 14 days. They spent an additional 8 weeks there and continued to receive malnutrition treatment while their mother received health and nutrition education. The twins then went on to graduate at a healthy weight.
Germaine was very excited to explain her joy and gratitude to MFK for this excellent donation, hoping that the malnutrition level decreases in Chabanon and Bord de Mer Limonade. "I am very happy that my babies have recovered and that they will be able to walk and grow up healthier thanks to MFK and Medika Mamba. I now know how to feed my kids to prevent malnutrition, rules of hygiene, and treat the water." Added Germaine.
Haiti celebrated Mother’s Day on May 30th. It’s a special day for all Haitians, observed by long church services, dressing up in Sunday best, sharing gifts and flowers, and mourning for those who have lost their moms. In Haiti, they often say “Mother’s day is for all mothers,” whether you are rich or poor, young or adult, from rural areas or big cities.
Meds & Food for Kids is proud to celebrate and honor Haitian mothers, especially those MFK have had a chance to work with whether in our malnutrition program, prenatal program, or farmer training program. Haitian mothers are some of the most resilient women in the world. Nearly half of the Haitian households are led by women and two-thirds of Haitian women participate actively in the workforce.
The MFK agriculture team works with rural mothers who are deeply involved in the agriculture supply chain. They are involved in every aspect of the chain, from planting to the commercialization of peanut production. The work that women do is integral to the Haitian economy. MFK has 20 mothers participating in this season’s farmer training program. Women are key to producing good quality peanuts with a low level of aflatoxins because they tend to take the lead and manage the peanuts after harvest (drying and selling peanuts, storing and selling). They are all this while at the same time taking care of their children at home.
Yolette Jean-Baptiste is 43 years old and a mother of 5. She has taken part in the farmer training group this year. Mrs. Jean-Baptiste explains that she works on her own land while her husband works on a separate piece of land. “I wake up early in the morning, around 5 o’clock at the same time with my husband, my husband goes to his garden and I stay to make sure that the kids go to school on time and cook for them”, Yolette says. Yolette goes to her garden around 8 am after sending the kids to school and manages to work until she knows when the kids would be back. Yolette is taking advantage of the time when the kids are in school to attend MFK farmer training and she is hopeful the training will help her to increase her production and produce a better quality of peanuts. “I am learning a lot of new techniques and I remain hopeful that I can be a great peanut provider for MFK”, Yolette remarks.
Yolette is just one example of how hard Haitian mothers work. MFK is proud to partner with these extraordinary women through our agriculture program, helping to provide the tools and knowledge they need to support their families through farming. Please join MFK in honoring Haitian mothers. We thank you for your support in changing the lives of Haitian women and their families through our programs.
Meds & Food for Kids is fortunate to have a dedicated and talented team of Haitian employees on the ground in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. During this time of COVID-19, their jobs have been more challenging and required adaptability, flexibility, and ingenuity. MFK would like to introduce you to Martín Lassalle, our Business Manager. Martín has been working for MFK since February of 2021.
Martín is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was born and raised in a little town in the suburbs called Beccar. He graduated from Universidad de Buenos Aires with a degree in law, and later graduated with a postgraduate degree in Nonprofit Organizations Management from Universidad de San Andres. He also has his diploma in Project Management from Universidad de Buenos Aires.
Though his background is in international & human rights law, Martín worked for over 10 years in the financial sector, mainly in the stock market in his home country, until 2010. He then started volunteering with a non-profit organization called TECHO and began getting involved in different social projects locally in Argentina. His first career venture in a non-profit role was in 2014 as the country manager for TECHO in Haiti. After his time at TECHO, he spent some time working in Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Even though Martín had moved onto other opportunities, Haiti was still at the forefront of his mind. “After my first experience in Haiti (from 2014 to 2016) I kept looking for job opportunities in the country since I never wanted to leave it in the first place. I also worked with rural communities in Cabaret and Croix-des-Bouquets and I got to know firsthand the hardships families in rural communities face every day to secure food for their own.” In 2020, Martín started to actively search for a work opportunity to go back to the country, and that’s when he started to learn more about MFK and their work in Haiti. Martín says “I feel really blessed to join the team and to be able to return to this beautiful and challenging country.”
At MFK, Martín is the Director of Sales & Administration In Haiti, working on developing a local market for the products and also providing support to HR, finance, and administration locally. He also works daily within customer relations. Due to the scope of Martín’s role, every day is very different. From going to visit a school distributing Vita Mamba, to having meetings with cooperation agencies, to working with MFK’s customer relations manager to look for new partners, every day brings a new surprise and new situations to work on.
Outside of his vocation, Martín loves art and sports. He spends most of his free time reading, watching movies, listening to different types of music, and trying to catch a match of his favorite soccer team online. (whenever Haiti internet allows it). He also loves outdoor activities and takes the opportunity whenever he can to go to different beaches around Okap.
Martín says his favorite aspect of working with MFK is being part of an organization that is making such a huge impact in the country, and in many other places as well. He shares “I love being able to contribute to delivering help where it is most needed. I also feel really lucky to work with so many talented and capable coworkers, in a place where everyone aims to achieve the same goals.”
Fort Bourgeois is a beautiful community located in Northern Haiti in Cap-Haitien among the mountains. Unfortunately in this area, malnutrition is one of the leading causes of children’s mortality. As part of our malnutrition program, Meds & Food for Kids partners with Centre de Santé Fort Bourgeois-ULS to provide Medika Mamba treatment and important health education sessions to parents.
Julie was born in Port-au-Prince in the community of Cité Soleil. She lived with her mother and two siblings. Her mother had very little money and no family near to help her, making it difficult to feed her children. From the time of her birth onward, Julie grew progressively sicker. She was hospitalized several times for diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and low appetite.
When Julie was around 12 months old she had become so weak she could not sit or stand up properly. Some neighbors advised her mother to take her to Grace Children’s Hospital for screening, one of MFK’s partners. At this particular clinic, MFK had donated enough Medika Mamba to treat malnutrition so that every month more than a hundred malnourished children are able to be enrolled in the malnutrition program. After screening, Julie was admitted as severely malnourished at a weight of 12.3 lbs.
Julie loved the taste of Medika Mamba. She spent 10 weeks in the program receiving the product each week and graduated at a healthier weight of 15.8 lbs.
Julie’s mom was very happy and grateful for MFK giving this donation to Grace Children Hospital, treating the poorest children in Port-au-Prince for malnutrition and saving Julie’s life. Julie is now happy and healthy, and strong enough again to be a very mobile toddler.
An agricultural-industrial fair was held downtown in Cap Haitien, on the boulevard by the ocean. In a festive atmosphere of animation, exhibition, and information sharing around the theme “Ann jere dlo pou sove lavi,”(Let’s manage water to save lives,) the fair gave the opportunity for producers/business owners, and artisans to exhibit their products and reflect on this day. Agricultural process industries were able to showcase their products and services derived from agricultural products grown in Haiti.
Daphné was 17 when she became pregnant. She lived with her mother, stepfather, and two siblings in Bodin, a small community in northern Haiti in Cap-Haitian. After becoming pregnant, it was difficult for Daphné to receive proper care and nourishment, as her whole family was being supported on a small farmer’s income.
In Haiti, some communities do not have a health center with a midwife or gynecologist to help pregnant women access the care they need during pregnancy. Usually, pregnant women never receive care or checkups during pregnancy at all. They often deliver at home by a matron or someone in their family, putting them at higher risk for complications.
MFK supports community clinics in preventing malnutrition by distributing Mamba Djanm (Plumpy Dose) products as a supplement, from pregnancy to breastfeeding. MFK’s nurse and health agent who run the program also provide nutrition education, advice on prenatal and postnatal health risks, hygiene, breastfeeding, and more. Women who have taken part in MFK’s prenatal program and received Mamba Djanm as supplemental treatment have shown no signs of anemia or delivered low birth weight babies.
Daphné was invited by a health agent to come to the clinic in Madeline. Daphné was able to receive Mamba Djanm over a period of six months and was assessed by a gynecologist for her pregnancy. She later gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at a healthy weight. As Daphné was graduating from the program, the baby’s weight was 6.4 kg (14.08 lbs) when he was 3 months old.
Daphné shared, “Thanks to MFK’s Mamba Djanm, I feel better and healthier. Every day, these sachets have helped me fight hunger, give me strength, and meet my basic nutritional needs. My baby has been saved from malnutrition and will grow up healthy.”
For the next three months, we have two wonderful interns who will be learning about our research method, farmer training, peanut purchases, and more. We are grateful to have them as part of the team! Here’s a little more about them:
Jeffté was born in Petite-Anse, an area of Haiti with very high malnutrition rates. Jeffté and his father and mother all live with Jeffté’s grandparents. When Jeffté was seven months old, he began to grow thin and weak as his appetite gradually decreased. His grandmother, who often cared for him, became worried for his health and well-being.
Jeffté’s health continued to worsen, and when he was ten months old his grandmother brought him wrapped in a towel to a local hospital in Cap-Haitien. Jeffté had never been able to see a doctor or nurse prior to the visit. He was referred to Clinic Medico-Social at Charrier, a partner malnutrition program, where MFK’s nurse was able to provide a consultation. After screening, it was clear Jeffté was severely malnourished with additional complications, weighing just 8.8 LB with edema.
The clinic quickly sent him to another MFK partner, Danita’s Children, where he was able to spend three weeks in their inpatient malnutrition center to receive intensive treatment for his malnutrition and other illnesses. When Jeffté was able to be discharged, he returned to the outpatient Medika Mamba program and continued to gain weight. After an additional 8 weeks of treatment, Jeffté graduated at a healthier weight of 16.3 LB.
Jeffté’s grandmother and the rest of his family are so grateful to MFK for saving the life of their child. His grandmother said that she didn’t have the exact words to thank MFK for the excellent care and the work which they are doing in Haiti– she hopes this program will continue to save more even children from malnutrition.
In 2018, Meds & Food for Kids embarked on a journey to achieve certification of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 22000 standards. After many months of hard work and an intense two-day audit of our management systems, MFK was granted certification in ISO 22000:2005 on March 20, 2019. MFK was one of the first food processing facilities in Haiti to achieve this certification.
ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant international standards which support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges. Certification can be a useful tool to add credibility by demonstrating that a product or service meets the expectations of your customers. For some industries, certification is a legal or contractual requirement. MFK’s largest customer, UNICEF, has strongly encouraged its suppliers to become certified.
Gaining certification was just the beginning of our journey; the ISO 22000:2005 certificate is valid for three years, but the independent auditors must conduct an update audit each year for the certification to remain in place. In 2020, MFK’s update audit was scheduled for March 18-19 at our facility in Haiti. The auditors, based at a consulting firm in Mexico City, Mexico, decided to not travel to Haiti given continuing U.S. State Department Level 4 travel advisory for Haiti. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic made international travel inadvisable. We agreed to the remote audit, as it was unclear when international travel to Haiti would be permitted and advisable. As I have shared with you in the past, we were successful in passing this re-certification audit.
Unfortunately, 2021 brings with it continuing challenges with traveling to Haiti, given many COVID-19 related restrictions and additional security issues on the ground in Haiti. The auditors once again decided that it would be prudent to conduct the audit remotely.
MFK held the audit on a Zoom platform, which worked well, for the most part, as the internet in Haiti is sometimes unreliable. The daily Zoom calls included Nolny Alphonse, MFK Quality Assurance Manager; Remenson Tenor, MFK Plant Manager, both from Haiti; the two auditors, from their homes in Mexico City; and me, Lauren Plummer, MFK’s Chief Administrative Officer, in Saint Louis, Missouri.
The audit plan for the third and final year of re-certification process was somewhat different from 2020 plan. First, the International Organization for Standardization had updated its ISO 22000 standards to better align with other ISO standards. In order to keep our certification in 2021, we needed to pass the audit using the revised standards (ISO 22000:2018 instead of the former ISO 22000:2005). This represented several differences in the way in which we organized our food safety management system; it also required new sections to the system dedicated to an organizational risk-based approach to management. In summary, this new approach involved identifying context and environmental issues external to the organization, internal to the organization, and identifying the requirements and expectations of all interested parties. Once this context was set and risks and opportunities were identified, it then requires actions to be integrated in the operational processes. Finally, it requires evaluating effectiveness of the implemented actions.
We started the first day by discussing the observations from the last re-certification audit in 2020, and progress and refinements we had made to our food safety management system over the last year. We then discussed our progress in moving from the 2005 standards to the 2018 standards. We gave examples of our emergency preparedness, a must-have factor in certification, including our current protocols to address employee safety and additional hygiene in this time of COVID-19, as well as reviewing the steps MFK has taken to sustain operations and meet customers’ needs through Haiti’s periodic civil unrest.
The auditors toured our facility via cell phone video on WhatsApp, and also interviewed two of our operators in production about their understanding of the food safety management system at MFK. We worked through the second day of the audit with Nolny screen-sharing many components of our management systems and policies, providing evidence that we strictly adhere to these systems, based on the ISO standards. MFK is pleased to report we passed the update audit again and are able to share this wonderful news with all of you. Next year we will have a prolonged audit, with the aspiration of attaining a new ISO 22000 certificate.
Bahon is a beautiful community located in northern Haiti. To get to Bahon, it takes over two hours by car through very rural areas with bad roads. Each Tuesday, the parents of children in the malnutrition program supported by MFK have to climb up and down mountains or hire a motorcycle taxi to take them to the clinic to get treatment and support. A Haitian nurse and health agent work together each week to ensure the children can be seen and their height and weight can be collected to track their progress.
MFK’s nurse visits Bahon on a regular basis to provide consultation and support to the nurse and health agent, and we also donate all product needed to treat the children. One recent graduate of the malnutrition treatment program is Roselande. Last month, thanks to Medika Mamba, she returned back to life. The younger of two children, Roselande was 19 months old when her health began to deteriorate due to malnutrition. She began experiencing fever and diarrhea, her appetite lessened and she became puffy and swollen with edema. Her parents reported that she cried all the time. She weighed only 19 LB, with her edema.
The local health Agent, Cyliac always traverses the mountains to reach out to the malnourished children in need of treatment. He met Roselande’s Mom and advised her to bring her daughter to Bahon clinic to be screened for malnutrition. After the screening process, she was referred to MFK partner, Danita’s Children, with severe health complications from malnutrition. Roselande spent two weeks receiving Medika Mamba and other medical treatment. Once she was recovered enough to leave the health center, she was admitted back into the malnutrition program at Bahon to complete her treatment. She graduated the program at 22 LB.
Roselande’s Mom was so grateful for the malnutrition treatment and support that her daughter received at both locations. She thanked our team for giving her daughter a second chance at life.
Philomise is a farmer from Savane Longue, a small community in the Northeast of Haiti in Ouanaminthe, home to approximately 10,000 people.
At a very young age, Philomise remembers being involved in agriculture related activities, especially peanut production. As early as 6 years of age, she remembers helping with planting, harvesting, drying and selling peanuts.
After getting married, Philomise was eager to find another activity that would generate more money for the household, as peanut farming was not enough to support her young family. Irrigation issues, lack of rainfall, soil erosion, seed issues and pests were just a few of the common issues that she faced season after season. She finally gave up the agriculture activities to focus on running a small business selling raw meat and other foods on the main road while her husband remained focused on agriculture. “I generated more money to support my family in this small business than in farming,” claimed Philomise. After several years running her business, Philomise felt very comfortable, but never dropped the idea of one day going back to farming.
Philomise was introduced to the MFK farmer training program when a community leader asked her to be part of the 2019 training cohort. It was a hard decision for Philomise because she would need someone to take care of her business activities during the two hours she would be away at the training. She finally convinced her sister to help her during one day of the week so she could attend the training. Philomise attended the training consistently and participated in all activities. “By listening to the agronomist, I realize that I was doing a lot of things wrong with my farming practices,” Philomise explained. “I did not know that I was supposed to dry the peanuts on tarp, I usually dry them on bare ground, and I could not recognize the diseases that limited my productivity,” she added.
After graduating from the MFK training program, Philomise decided to start farming again while keeping her small business alive. Philomise was selected by MFK agronomists to join the Champions program. The objective of this more intensive agricultural program is to provide support to the most vulnerable smallholders’ farmers in the north to improve their livelihoods: strengthening peanut production in the Ouanaminthe areas, providing inputs and trainings to improve peanut yield and quality and buying peanuts from smallholder farmers at a favorable and fixed price.
Through this program, Philomise benefitted from equipment and tools to support her in her efforts, and the MFK agronomist visiting her throughout the season to evaluate progress and provide advice. Philomise planted 12 marmites of peanuts which is roughly 14.4 kg of peanuts and she harvested about 150 marmites (180kg). This is considered to be successful due to farmers in these areas genrally harvesting an average of 50 marmites (60kg) for each 10 marmites (12kg) planted without any consultation or support. Philomise’s peanuts also passed aflatoxin contamination tests and she was able to sell to MFK and use the proceeds to feed her family and send her children to school.
Now that Philomise succeeded on low scale, she wants to keep on the same track and plant more next season to sell to MFK now as a certifier supplier. We applaud Philomise for a job well done and look forward to watching her yields and income continue to increase into the future.
We are deeply grateful for the viewership and generous support of our donors and friends for our first ever virtual gala!
Missed the event and still want to support our programs? Click below to watch our show in its entirety or click here to make a gift.
Special thanks to Ironman Sound Industries, Jeff Civillico, Susan Werremeyer, Chad Wolford, John Jacobsen, Kevin Fitzgerald and Matchbox Design Group.
I left Haiti and moved to the United States on September 3, 2003. Despite all the bad things I had heard in the news, I took a trip back to Haiti with Dr. Patricia Wolff in October 2020. I was so inspired by the presence of MFK in the communities I visited, I am reassured that there is hope for a better Haiti.
The first program I visited was MFK’s agriculture program in the north east part of Haiti. James Blanc, the lead agronomist who joined MFK in 2018, introduced me to a couple farmers in the MFK’s champions program. Our first stop was in a beautiful little village called Baja, in the north east part of Haiti. This is where James meets with the farmers every week on Wednesday at 12pm for the “Champions Program.” The Champions Program is an intensive individualized farmer mentorship which includes a farming class that lasts for two hours. In those two hours, James teaches the farmers about different farming concepts including soil preparation, soil conservation, and techniques to prevent aflatoxin contamination as well as basic business methodologies.
Farmers in the northeast do not think of their farming activities as a business venture. Oliquer, one of the farmers in the champions program that I spoke with, told me that he is a farmer because that is what his parents did. Farmers in Baja generally spend all their time and little resources they have in their garden without understanding the possible return they can expect or keeping track of their investments. James told me that he encourages the farmers to record the costs of everything they put into their garden so that they can track their progress and, ultimately, profit. Since most farmers in that part of Haiti are not able to read or write, they have to rely on their kids to help them record the information.
MFK’s Champion Program promises true social-economic development in the communities I visited. The farmers in the Champions Program told me that their rent, children education, and healthcare depend on their peanut harvest. Before MFK’s program, harvesting was a game of lottery. If the impact of climate change did not destroy their garden, aflatoxin contamination still threatened a good harvest. However, because of MFK’s Champion’s Program, the farmers told me they feel much more confident about meeting the needs of their family.
The Improving Aflatoxin Control in Haiti (AFLAH) project aimed to improve aflatoxin control through concerted efforts of men and women peanut farmers, other value chain actors, and public institutions, including multiple Haitian government agencies. This project is financed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a Canadian government institution, and managed by Dr. Patrice Dion of Laval University in Québec City. The project focused on identifying the factors that influence the adoption of methods to control aflatoxins by farmers and other actors in the peanut industry in Haiti.
COVID-19 has created an unprecedented crisis for everyone. The magnitude and spread of this virus has shown us just how connected we all are to one another. The past eight months have been difficult. Your support is essential to respond to the increased malnutrition that we are seeing in Haiti. Read more about how your financial support helps us continue serving children like Jesula and farmers like Rose Marie in our fall mailer.
We need your help now more than ever. There is much work to be done. We cannot do it without you. As you are able, we are grateful for whatever you can do to continue supporting our mission. Together, we can get to the day when malnutrition is no more.
Meds & Food for Kids produces Ready-to-Use Foods in our factory in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. That much is known. What may be unknown is how our all our operations are intricately interwoven. Our process starts with a simple seed – a peanut – and ends in the hands of a child at a malnutrition clinic like Société d’Aide Médical (SAMED).
A core part of MFK’s mission is purchasing peanuts from local farmers to use in our Ready-to-Use Foods (RUFs). By doing so, MFK helps a farmer support their family by providing a market for their crops. In the beginning, MFK employees would go to the local market and purchase what was available. As operations expanded over the years, so did MFK’s peanut purchases. To help meet this demand, MFK researches different seed varieties that produce higher yields and passes that information down to the farmers who participate in our farmer education programs.
However, MFK must meet strict international food safety standards. To ensure MFK purchases peanuts that are free from aflatoxin (a dangerous carcinogen produced by certain molds) MFK’s Agriculture Team teaches farmers not only how to increase yields, but also how to grow peanuts that are free of aflatoxin and suitable for MFK’s production of RUF.
Peanuts are rich in energy and contain nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for treating and curing malnutrition. This is why our products are peanut-based. Once MFK inspects the peanuts from local farmers, they are purchased and stored in preparation for being combined with other ingredients to make nutritious products like Vita Mamba, our school snack.
Full Interview Transcript:
“You know, if there were technologies that could make me more youthful, and more energetic, for longer so that I could do the meaningful work that I like to do–longer–of course I would be very enthusiastic
about that. Why wouldn’t I?”
Meds & Food for Kids, or MFK, is an organization that I started 17 years ago because of what I had seen in the previous 15 years in Haiti. Lots of sick kids, not getting better with medicine. Sick because they were malnourished and no real way to treat them. So we started making this concoction of peanuts, powdered milk, sugar, oil, vitamins, and minerals with a little hand grinder. Then we put a motor on it, then put a hopper on it and moved six times, and raised money to build a big factory and employ more people. So we now have 66 Haitian employees.
We have worked with thousands and thousands of Haitian peanut farmers over the years to grow better peanuts that we can then buy. And we have now treated in combination with Haiti and 16 other countries to which we export, 430,000 children’s lives have been saved. So we really feel like we’ve really made a dent in it but the really hard part of this is sustainability and continuing and continuing.
I was taking aging for granted and thinking I was just kinda chugging along and was going to live forever. Until last summer, I was in Haiti and it was 9:15 at night and I was in bed and got severe angina. And I knew what it was and there was nothing to be done about it. I didn’t have an aspirin. I called three people and they didn’t have an aspirin. If I went to the hospital they wouldn’t have had an aspirin. They couldn’t have done anything for me and I thought “Whoa. Hmmm…this is surprising. This is how it ends, huh?” And it went on for 90 minutes and in that 90 minutes, that is a long time to think.
So, I fell asleep and I woke up in the morning and I was alive and I thought “Whoa, that’s good. Whoa! That’s something.” And, I didn’t die. I made my calls to the airline and got on the airplane and we went to the hospital and I had a stent put in and here I am today. I’m good to go for another 20 years maybe, but sometimes it doesn’t work out for people. Right? At the cardiac cath, I had a 99% occlusion of the widowmaker so I would have been dead.
You know, I’m really all about meaningfulness and so if I could lead a meaningful life for a long, long time, to me, that would be great. I know there’s lots of things we could do in Haiti that would be very useful and be done in lots of places and if I had more energy maybe I would go to those other places. So, I don’t see any shortage of things to do.”
MFK lost a great supporter and friend. Dr. William Danforth, who passed away yesterday, supported MFK’s agriculture and school feeding programs and was invested in our work with smallholder farmers. As a former chancellor of Washington University, he connected the university with MFK’s mission. Dr. Danforth accomplished tremendous good for Washington University, St. Louis, MFK and the world in his lifetime. He will be sorely missed and MFK is forever grateful.
It felt so good to get back to Haiti after a six-month absence due to COVID-19. The sun shone every day. I flew from Ft. Pierce, Florida to Cap-Haitien along with nine other passengers with Missionary Flights International flight.
Upon arrival, my forehead temperature was taken and I was asked questions about sickness and exposures. The airport was empty of passengers except for the 10 of us and our luggage was quickly found. We made it through customs quickly – even customs was off their usual game…. If you know what I mean……I was asked to quarantine for 14 days and told I would be called three times to check for sickness. I was always masked. I did not visit any stores or markets, and I only engaged in outdoor activities on my own street and at the factory. Fortunately, a few of my friends visited me with masks on and brought delicious local fruit.
At the factory, all employees and visitors wash hands for 20 seconds, get a forehead temperature check, step out of their street clothes and take a shower before they enter the premises wearing clean scrubs. Although there is little testing in Haiti, we assume that almost half of our staff, out for less than a week with a “little fever” has had COVID. The rate of severe illness and death in Haiti is very low officially and anecdotally. We were braced for more serious illnesses, but it appears the worst predictions have not come to pass. We are very grateful but continue with protocols and holding our collective breath.
Meds & Food for Kids would like to introduce you to Magdalla Borgella, our nurse educator. Magdalla has been working for MFK and assisting MFK partner clinics since March 2018.
Magdalla has a monthly planning calendar so she can visit each clinic routinely. MFK has 13 active malnutrition programs and five prenatal programs and she visits one program per day, either malnutrition or prenatal. She helps plan out the malnutrition programs and evaluates the nurses who work at the clinics.
Facing rising cases of COVID-19 in Haiti, and a declining number of clinics and hospitals capable of caring for malnourished children, the production and distribution of Meds & Food for Kids’ (MFK) Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) is essential. As the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Haiti increase, the number of malnutrition cases will continue to increase as well.
The Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) received a donation of 4,500 boxes (62,000 kilograms) of Mamba Djanm/Plumpy’Sup and 500 boxes (6,890 kilograms) of Medika Mamba/Plumpy’Nut from MFK that will help save the lives of an estimated 5,000 severely and moderately malnourished children in Haiti. The MSPP Director of Nutrition and Food has developed an implementation plan for the country’s 10 health departments.
The product, valued at more than $280,000, will treat vulnerable children whose families are struggling to feed them due to rising costs of basic necessities and the inability to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We persist in our mission. The children of Haiti need our help now more than ever. Our top priority is to work with the Ministry of Public Health and Population to find and treat Haitian children in desperate need of our help,” noted MFK Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Patricia Wolff. “We are deeply grateful to our donors for making this treatment for 5,000 malnourished Haitian children possible.”
Medika Mamba – which means “peanut butter medicine” in Haitian Creole – is considered the gold standard for treating malnutrition by the World Health Organization. MFK produces this and other humanitarian products in its Cap-Haïtien, Haiti manufacturing center using Haitian employees and some local raw materials.
Last week, we informed you about the selection of my successor, Vanessa Charlot. After further discussion with Vanessa, she feels that there is a different role at MFK which better suits her goals and ours. Vanessa is committed to championing MFK’s vision and mission by using her public profile as a documentary photographer to elevate our cause. She will volunteer her photography and expertise to support MFK’s strategic communication, marketing, and fundraising efforts through visual storytelling and compelling media narratives.
Please rest assured that I will continue in my role as MFK’s CEO and that my passion for MFK’s mission is unwavering. The MFK Board and I are fully committed to the CEO search continuing. We are confident Kittleman & Associates is the firm that will lead MFK to the right candidate.
Effective immediately, we are reopening the search for my successor. The CEO role is challenging and requires deep dedication to MFK’s mission, the willingness to commit very long hours to MFK’s life-saving work, hands-on leadership of the factory in Haiti as well as of the administrative staff in the U.S., while maintaining relationships with relevant stakeholders around the world. The position description has been reposted online.
The St. Louis and Haiti staff continue to work hard during this time and are fully supportive of the selection committee’s efforts. Thank you for your continued support and know we could not do our important work in Haiti without you.
In healthcare, much as in life, nobody functions as an island. Collaboration and teamwork are an essential part of what gets Medika Mamba from our production factory into the mouths of malnourished children around Haiti – and around the world. I’ve come to learn and admire so much about the amazing health agents (agents de santé) that work in and around the many malnutrition programs MFK supports.
Accessibility is a challenge in Haiti. Due to poor infrastructure, among other reasons, there are children living in rural Haiti who are in need of Medika Mamba, but remain untreated by our malnutrition partners. These health agents are often tasked with doing the foot work of going to find them. They spend hours traveling by foot, moto, tap tap (taxi), or even donkey to reach hard-to-access areas.
They complete a basic malnutrition screening and talk to families about where and when different malnutrition clinics are running. They are often the ones who guide some of the sickest babies and children to our Medika Mamba treatment programs.
At many of our partnering programs, such as the one at CHIDA Hospital, they can frequently be found supporting the nurses by helping with paperwork, and helping weigh, measure and entertain the children. For all of this we are so grateful.
Haiti reported its first case of COVID-19 in March. The potential huge impact of this pandemic in Haiti, a country with crowded conditions in housing, public transportation, and food markets, has stressed the people and systems of Haiti even more. Haiti is also without a sophisticated healthcare system, leaving its people to care for themselves. Initially, the President of Haiti shut down airports, factories, and schools to prevent the spread of the virus. In early April, the Prime Minister asked that all factories producing essential goods resume production and on April 14th, MFK resumed production of its lifesaving Medika Mamba.
MFK is committed to producing lifesaving nutritious foods for use locally and globally through export, while continuing to protect our workers and monitor their health. But, we need your help. As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rise in Haiti, the number of malnutrition cases will continue to rise as well. We also know that the last 18 months of social unrest has already resulted in a 30% rise in malnutrition in Haiti. As we expand our reach and go further into rural areas, we find more children in need of Medika Mamba.
Our mission is not changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Children like Mila and Wilson need your help now more than ever. We continue to work with our partners to find and treat Haitian children in desperate need of our help. Your support enables us to step in to treat children who have no other hope.
Download our Summer 2020 mailer to read Mila and Wilson’s full stories!
COVID-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty, but MFK’s commitment to support Haitian farmers remains unchanged. Sourcing peanuts from Haitian farmers remains a top priority, and this year we expect to purchase more than 40 metric tons of peanuts from local farmers.
In June, Haitian farmers officially kicked-off a new peanut harvest season. In the North, most peanut farmers use 4-month peanut varieties (local runner and GA006G), but often farmers are limited to planting only two times per year due to the limited amount of rainfall and irrigation for their crops. In contrast, farmers in the Central Plateau and West regions use the local 3-month peanut variety (Valencia), but farmers are again restricted to only three plantings per year due to insufficient rainfall or irrigation.
In June, MFK was delighted to receive local peanuts for use in our productions of RUFs. This is considered an early harvest season because weather conditions have not allowed Haitian farmers to plant in February for the last few years. Farmers who were ready in February took advantage of the suitable weather conditions, and they are now currently harvesting. MFK received over 5 metric tons from two local suppliers that work closely with smallholder farmers: Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation and Premier Steppe Ferme. Acceso is a social enterprise in the Central Plateau that provides support and inputs to farmers, significantly improving peanut yields, incomes and quality. Premier Steppe Ferme is a privately owned farm located in the North of Haiti.
Sources of good quality peanuts in Haiti can be very limited. Peanut consumers in Haiti have a high risk of exposure to aflatoxin, a dangerous toxin that can lead to stunted growth, a weakened immune system or liver cancer. MFK has strict protocols in place to avoid purchasing peanuts with a high level of aflatoxin. All local peanuts are screened at the purchase point or the delivery station for aflatoxin, since contamination typically originates on the farm during the growing season or immediately after harvest. MFK training programs educate farmers about caring for their peanut plants during the growing period and also post-harvest management techniques to mitigate their risk of contamination.
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the country, many businesses and offices have been forced to shut down, resulting in more children becoming vulnerable to malnutrition. MFK’s products are needed now more than ever and it gives our team great pride to know that locally grown peanuts play such a huge part in this mission work.
Meds & Food for Kids has a dedicated and talented team of Haitian employees on-the-ground in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. During this time of COVID-19, their jobs have been more challenging and required adaptability, flexibility and ingenuity. A strong leader possessing those very qualities is MFK’s own Remenson Tenor.
Remenson is the son of a pastor and grew up in northwest Haiti in Port-de-Paix, Môles Saint Nicholas and Jean-Rabel. After completing high school, Remenson moved to Port-au-Prince to study civil engineering at the University Ruben Leconte. Remenson left Haiti temporarily to move to St. Louis, Missouri where he continued his studies at Florissant Valley Community College. He completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Madonna University in Michigan.
Remenson was first introduced to MFK during his time in St. Louis. After learning about MFK’s mission in Haiti to fight malnutrition, he knew MFK was an organization he wanted to work for when he returned to Haiti.
“Where I am from, I used to see a lot of kids suffering from malnutrition and if I cannot feed them myself, the best I can do is be a part of the plant that makes the product. So, for every child that is saved by our product, whether in Haiti or elsewhere, I know I am now part of making the change.”
Since joining MFK in July 2019 as the Plant Manager, Remenson has been mastering his skills supervising and coordinating the supply chain operations, ranging from procurement of goods and materials to the delivery of the finished product to MFK’s customers. He currently leads five departments: logistics, quality control, production, maintenance and peanut processing. He appreciates the opportunity to become a better manager and effective team player. Additionally, working at MFK has allowed him to push himself to the limit by learning to step up and manage crises such as fuel shortages, strikes and COVID-19 that could affect the business overall.
What’s a day-in-the-life of an MFK Plant Manager look like? Remenson starts each day reviewing the previous day’s production, any breakdowns and down times, meeting about production planning and scheduling, addressing any customer-related issues, interacting with other departments such as human resources and sales, and liaising with the MFK U.S. staff.
When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Cynthia, and his daughter, Abby-Gaëlle, dining out, going to the beach, singing, and dancing. Remenson likes soccer and is a big fan of the Haitian and the Brazilian soccer teams. He also enjoys cooking and might want to be a chef someday.
Remenson had this to share with MFK supporters and friends, “You should know that your support is precious for our people. Haiti is one the most beautiful countries in the region, but also the poorest. Your contributions to MFK help save lives of malnourished children, but also help uplift the economy. I really appreciate what you do and thank you all for your support.”
His favorite part of working for MFK? Remenson says, “There are many things, but contributing to saving lives, boosting the economy by training farmers and sourcing peanuts locally, and putting a smile on kids’ and parents’ faces are the things that inspire and excite me every morning I wake up. In other words, this is a good way for me to give back to my country and be an agent of change.”
Meds & Food for Kids was a proud recipient of a grant from the Lake Elmo Rotary Club in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. Grant funds were used to purchase a hand-crank peanut sheller and an aspirator.
MFK must test peanuts for aflatoxin, a dangerous group of carcinogens linked to liver damage and certain cancers when ingested. In order to test the peanuts, they must first be shelled. Prior to this grant, MFK had to hand-shell all the peanuts for inspection. This was time consuming and often required MFK to hire additional people to shell the peanuts by hand, which contributed to the high cost of procuring locally-grown peanuts in Haiti.
The Lake Elmo Rotary Club grant covered the cost of purchasing a mobile sheller and aspirator. This equipment was designed by Frank Nolin, a retired engineer who spent his career designing large-scale, commercial peanut processing equipment. Nolin, of Frank’s Designs for Peanuts, now focuses on designing technologies for use in the developing world. The hand-crank sheller and aspirator has allowed MFK to streamline its field inspections and purchasing procedures.
We hold our collective breath for the survival of all our colleagues, friends, and patients in Haiti. Our Haitian managers and workers are excelling in keeping the factory, nutrition programs and agricultural programs going strong, without our foreign staff who evacuated in March.
Currently, 18% of our Haitian employees are out with fever or other symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Thankfully, no one has died. The remaining workers have kept the factory open producing Medika Mamba/Plumpy ‘Nut for Haitian needs and for export. Our MFK nurse continues to support malnutrition clinics with Medika Mamba and by providing advice over the phone. Our agronomist continues to visit and advise smallholder farmers on better methods of peanut growing which will increase their incomes and decrease fungal contamination with aflatoxin. MFK has been buying large quantities of peanuts from Haitian farmers this week as the harvest continues.
The St. Louis team is supporting these efforts by purchasing and shipping needed supplies, holding daily phone calls to discuss problems relating to customs, peanut purchases, customer requirements, technical assistance to electrify the our new depot, and planning for solutions to our current and future power needs.
Meanwhile, there has been minimal COVID-19 testing available in Haiti and little guidance from the Ministry of Health. Most of the guidelines used in the U.S. are not feasible in Haiti. For example, there is no way to quarantine a person who has been exposed or even a person known to be infected. The majority of Haitians live in 1 or 2 rooms with 6-7 other people. There is no way to call out for groceries to be delivered at curbside or at one’s home. There is often no running water to wash hands. For food, there is a daily or every-two-day trek to a crowded market where only a few people wear masks.
It seems there is a belief among the population that COVID-19 is a hoax and that the “little fevers” that are prevalent all over the country are due to something else. At least two COVID-19 treatment centers have been set on fire, apparently in a misguided effort to staunch the spread of the virus.
Haiti’s Health Minister has now confirmed more than 1,400 cases of COVID-19 in Haiti. It’s no secret that Haiti has one of the weakest healthcare systems in the world. There are growing concerns about the ability of the Haitian government to fight the spread of COVID-19, and preserve an economy that is already very fragile.
Following the news on March 24th that two cases of the Coronavirus were discovered in Haiti, the government decided to shut down all the factories, including MFK’s factory, in order to help the fight against COVID-19. Airports and the border with the Dominican Republic, where a lot more cases were discovered, were also shut down. Thankfully, our factory resumed production in April.
Our Agriculture Team has been unable to train our farmers as we normally do. Recently, I received a call from one of our farmers wanting to know if we were planning to continue to hold our farmer trainings. I replied that it looked like we would have to stop because the government has decided to shut down all non-essential business and activities, and has formally forbidden all meetings and gatherings with more than 10 people. You could easily tell by his voice that he was disappointed. He told me that MFK’s farmer training program should be considered an essential activity because farmers are supposed to be ready to feed everyone during this difficult time. He said,
“Without farmers, there is no food and having no food is worse than COVID 19.”
I told him that he was right. The country right now needs farmers more than ever. Therefore, MFK decided to keep holding trainings with groups of 10 or fewer people. Everyone sits at least two meters apart from each other. We go over safety precautions that the farmers need to take to avoid getting and spreading the coronavirus. They always have a lot of questions about the virus and they show a lot of concerns over the lack of medical infrastructure the country is currently facing.
We also talk about topics related to agriculture including using different cropping systems. A cropping system is the management techniques used on a particular field over a period of years. Some of these cropping systems used in Haiti include:
Cropping systems is an important topic because right now food is scarce and farmers need to harvest as soon as possible to provide for their families. Most of the time, farmers have only one plot of land and they can’t afford to wait four months until they can harvest their peanuts. As a result, they practice intercropping to get food from another crop while they wait to harvest the peanuts.
In 2018, Meds & Food for Kids embarked on a journey to achieve certification of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 22000 standards. After many months of hard work and an intense two-day audit of our management systems, MFK was granted certification in ISO 22000:2005 on March 20, 2019. MFK was one of the first food processing facilities in Haiti to achieve this certification.
ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant international standards which support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges. Certification can be a useful tool to add credibility by demonstrating that a product or service meets the expectations of your customers. For some industries, certification is a legal or contractual requirement. MFK’s largest customer, UNICEF, has strongly encouraged its suppliers to become certified.
We love Mamba! But, so much more goes on at the malnutrition programs MFK supports. Here is a quick snapshot of a few of the other services offered by MFK partners:
Referrals: As we are focused on community care, MFK doesn’t directly provide referrals. The nurses working at the clinics we support do! Through education and consultation, we work hard to help ensure the nurses can recognize when a child is too sick to be started on Medika Mamba, and know what appropriate steps to take to aid in the child’s immediate treatment. During all education sessions regarding the community-based treatment of malnutrition, we provide contact information for hospitals the children and babies can be referred to for impatient care. We have also recently created a more comprehensive directory of healthcare facilities offering free or affordable HIV and tuberculosis testing.
Screening: Each child who presents to a clinic or hospital on malnutrition program day is weighed and measured for height. This information is recorded regardless of whether or not the child is found to be malnourished. The data collected is used by the Haitian government and other non-government organizations to track rates of malnutrition in-country.
MFK has been very busy working through the recent shutdown in Haiti and in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MFK complied with the Haitian government’s order in early April to cease operations at the factory, but was given special permission to resume production the week of April 6th. While operating at a reduced capacity, MFK still produced more than 3,200 boxes of Medika Mamba by the end of the second week. Our employees remain healthy and are taking precautionary measures to ensure we continue to maintain the highest safety and health standards at the factory.
Hope Health Action (HHA), a neighbor of MFK, is currently preparing to open a COVID-19 isolation ward at their hospital. We have been able to assist their efforts by loaning HHA a generator to ensure they will have reliable electricity for powering oxygen concentrators in the unit.
Masks are in short supply globally. Our employees at the factory are required to use them to meet food manufacturing safety standards while producing lifesaving Medika Mamba. To comply with CDC guidance, employees wear masks while being transported to and from work in MFK vehicles each day.
I hope you are well, safe and coping as well as any of us can in these challenging times.
Last week, Dr. Pat Wolff sent you an announcement that she is planning to step back from her CEO role at Meds & Food for Kids, and remain involved in a non-operational role.
I am writing now to ask for your help in our search for Pat’s successor. As Board President, I am chairing the Search Committee for the recruitment of a new CEO for MFK. I am joined by committee members Eva Frazer, Jeff Hochman, John Kuenzi, Suzanne Langlois and Neil Seitz, and along with Pat’s knowledge and insights, we have begun the search and selection process. We have engaged Kittleman & Associates in Chicago, a firm that has very successfully recruited leaders exclusively for charitable organizations across the country since 1963.
The Search Committee created a CEO position description, which can be found on the MFK website. This document is being widely distributed in the U.S. and abroad to qualified candidates. I’d like to ask you to read this, particularly the last page which describes the skills, career experience and characteristics of the next CEO.
You can help. Please pass along this document to people in your circle of colleagues and friends who might have a personal interest in this position or who might be willing to direct us to potential qualified candidates. Any interested persons can simply contact Michelle Saddler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MFK staff in Haiti and St. Louis have been preparing for this transition for years. The Board and I have been working in concert with Dr. Pat and the staff on this succession plan and we have every confidence that this process will go smoothly and that MFK will be even better equipped in the future to provide lifesaving nutrition and agricultural development in Haiti.
Your assistance is most appreciated.
In partnership with you,
During this uncertain time, I hope this message finds you and your families safe and healthy as we navigate through this pandemic. Our teams in the U.S. and Haiti are working around the clock to keep our mission moving forward.
Because you are essential partners in MFK’s important mission accomplishments we would like to share with you news about the succession planning initiatives that are currently taking shape at MFK. We are setting the stage for a bright and long future for our operation in Haiti by selecting Kittleman & Associates, a national executive search firm specializing in the recruitment of CEOs for nonprofit organizations, to conduct a search for a new Chief Executive Officer.
I have been delegating and sharing responsibilities, knowledge and skills for several years in Haiti and in the U.S. to prepare for this transition. I will remain involved with the organization, but will be shifting my focus to elective but important activities that have not yet been prioritized because we lacked the bandwidth within MFK. Please be assured that I am in good health and have planned this transition for 2020. The Board and I have been working in concert on this succession plan and we have every confidence that this process will go smoothly and that MFK will be stronger for it.
Now more than ever, Haiti needs MFK’s products, skills and commitment. The last two years of political turmoil have created a 30% increase in malnutrition in the country even before COVID-19 reared its ugly head. We are very proud of our Haitian staff who continues to produce and distribute our lifesaving products while socially distancing, increasing mask use, transport in an MFK vehicle instead of public transport, and instructing people in their neighborhoods and homes about handwashing, not touching the face, etc.
Soon we will publish a job description and we hope you will send worthy candidates our way. We are confident our next CEO will add more skills, strengthen our efforts in Haiti and lead our team into a new era of progress toward sustainability.
Jeff Klopfenstein, President of our Board of Directors, is leading the search committee and will be communicating updates in the coming months.
Thank you all so much for your continued partnership and commitment to Haiti.
Last month, the MFK Agriculture team traveled to Port-au-Prince to join over 140 scholars, researchers, and agricultural experts for a conference hosted by the Feed the Future Appui A La Recherche Et Au Developpement Agricole (AREA) project. Launched in 2015, the AREA project helps Haiti develop and strengthen its agricultural innovation system and increase production, household incomes and food security. This was accomplished through a collaboration with the University of Florida and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The AREA project has trained thousands of farmers, professionals from public and private institutions, and has supported 25 Haitian graduate students attending the University of Florida and Louisiana State University in fields such as agro-climatic data and plant disease.
Things in Haiti are changing rapidly, as in the rest of the world. But, we have some positive and encouraging news to share.
The Prime Minister of Haiti has asked all factories producing medical products to resume production. MFK falls into this category, as we produce lifesaving Medika Mamba. MFK plans to restart production on Monday, April 6 for one shift per day. Many precautions are planned for safe transportation, safe entry and a safe work environment at the factory inHaiti. Our team wants to be able to produce more Medika Mamba for Haitian use and global use. We are constantly monitoring the health of our employees and the safety of their environment and will do what we need to do to protect them.
We have always used masks for food safety but now we also use them for COVID-19 safety. Because of a worldwide shortage of disposable masks, Barb Lind and Rita Struckhoff, of St. Louis have stepped up to sew washable masks for our workers. Also, Women of Milot , a social enterprise which employs Haitian seamstresses to make beautiful totes and small bags for tourists at a living wage, has offered to sew and donate 100 washable masks to MFK’s workers. A BIG THANK YOU to Barb, Rita and Deborah Couri, Founder and CEO of Women of Milot.
Although the airports and land border crossings are closed, the seaports are still open for import and export. This is an essential lifeline for the Haitian people for daily food and medical supplies.
The COVID-19 cases are slowly increasing, day by day. From the U.S. experience, we know what this means and we are vigilant about best practices to decrease the possibility of employee-to-employee transmission.
MFK continues to supply lifesaving Medika Mamba to clinics in Haiti and to UNICEF for export to African countries.
Patricia B. Wolff
Founder & CEO
COVID-19, or the anticipation of COVID-19, has stressed our people and our systems in Haiti and the U.S. as it has most people. Haiti has no confirmed cases of the virus, but our staff is appropriately worried about what might happen to them or their families if there is spread of COVID-19 in Haiti from the cases in the Dominican Republic or from visitors from other countries. The team has created a well-informed and scientific protocol for employees, malnourished kids and visitors. The government of Haiti has taken steps to reduce the risk of coronavirus entering the country. In response, MFK has cancelled our upcoming trips to Haiti.
We are continuing to be in close communication with our team. All our employees have been informed to stay home from work if they or anyone in their families are feeling ill. Our factory employees have always practiced good hand washing, worn gloves, face masks and other protective gear while in the factory producing our lifesaving Medika Mamba, and will continue to do so. They have also been instructed to use increased vigorous hand washing away from the factory and practice social distancing. We are thankful for the hard work and dedication of our Haitian and U.S. employees each and every day.
Patricia B. Wolff, MD
Founder & CEO
2020 gives us all not just a new year, but a new decade – one full of hope, and possibilities. It’s a great time to reflect on where we have been, and even more exciting, where we are going. Here is a snapshot of what we have going on in the MFK nutrition department:
The Artibonite region of Haiti is known to have high incidences of childhood malnutrition. MFK currently partners with one clinic in the region, approximately a four-hour drive from the factory. We are in the process of building additional partnerships with clinics and hospitals in that area, allowing us to expand our reach and treat more children suffering from malnutrition.
This hospital, located approximately 15 minutes from the Port-Au-Prince airport has treated up to 60 children in their malnutrition clinic. I had the opportunity to visit the hospital this past December with our Haitian nurse, Magdalla, and the need was severe. We have plans to continue this much-needed partnership, and support the clinic with more visits and education, to best equip the nurses in treating malnourished children.
In healthcare, continuing education is critical. Best practices are always evolving, and one must constantly be engaged in learning. Each month, the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population organizes a meeting focused on childhood malnutrition in Haiti. Professionals representing different organizations and areas in Haiti gather in Port-au-Prince to discuss problems, solutions, and ideas related to childhood malnutrition. The MFK nutrition team participates and keeps current with ongoing health issues in the country, as well as, builds and maintains relationships with supporting organizations. We are also able to aid in the transfer of knowledge, as we take what we gain from these meetings to the nurses at the clinics we visit. Knowledge is meant for sharing.
We are very excited to see all that MFK and our partner clinics will achieve in 2020!
In October 2019, 53 farmers from Savane Longue and Carrefour Sifreus completed the six-month MFK Farmer Training Program and received their certificates.
This past week, MFK welcomed 60 new farmers to the current session, taking place in two small communities in the Ouanaminthe area: Bahara (Baja)and Savane Longue. Located approximately 90 minutes southeast of the MFK factory, Savane Longue is home to 10,000 people and farmers primarily grow peanuts. While MFK has conducted trainings in Savane Longue for a few years, this is the first time MFK has conducted training sessions in Baja, a small community located on the border of the Dominican Republic. Farmers from Baja primarily grow corn, cassava roots, beans, and sweet potatoes. However, over the last 10 years many farmers from this community have abandoned farming, claiming that they make enough money from non-farming activities to support their household. They prefer traveling to the Dominican Republic to do business. As the focus has shifted away from farming, agricultural production has decreased considerably. With MFK’s training, we hope that they will regain confidence in the potential to make money from their farms and get back to farming.
The farmers will be educated on good agricultural practices that will allow them to produce better quality peanuts and increase their production. The program began on January 15thand will last until mid-June.
Through this program, MFK’s goal is to increase the production and quality of peanuts in the region by promoting improved agricultural practices. Every Wednesday and Thursday, the MFK Agriculture team will travel to these two communities to conduct training that consists of a mixture of presentations, group discussions and technical in-field activities.
During group discussions, a wide variety of topics are covered, including soil preparation, soil conservation and erosion prevention, leaf disease and insect control, crop rotation and mixed gardens, aflatoxin control pre and post-harvest, financial literacy and climate change. Our in-field activities include simple experiments comparing yield and plant growth of the three local varieties, in-row planting versus scattered planting, and fungicide application. Our goal is to see the farmers not only increase production but also produce good quality peanuts, free from aflatoxin.
On January 15, we welcomed all the new participants. This season’s participants are excited and motivated to learn new things and ways to improve their production. Each participant completed a brief survey about their current agricultural practices and basic information about themselves. We will use this information to not only help these farmers, but also help the agriculture team determine understanding and areas of interest. Look for more information about this growing season soon!
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” This inspiring quote kept coming to the forefront of my mind during the MFK nurse’s education day on December 5th. Eighteen nurses, most traveling for hours to attend, came together for discussion, learning, and comradery. They arrived early, eager to learn. We gathered in the conference room of the MFK factory, and each nurse introduced themselves, and the clinic where she works.
Then the real work began with a surprise pop quiz! The giggles and groans that came with its announcement is a reaction that must be universal, but our Haitian nurse educators, Roudelyne and Magdalla, were quick to assure them that it wasn’t to be formally graded, nor excessively difficult. Rather, it was a tool to gauge the information the nurses were already working with and the effectiveness of the training upon completion.