01/14/2010 10:58 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Good Way to Help Haiti

Given the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the internet has been buzzing with ways to help. I want to amplify this suggestion from The Nation's Peter Rothberg:

There are numerous ways to help groups already on the ground. One of the best, Partners In Health, has been operating in the country since 1987, originally to deliver health care to the residents of Haiti's mountainous Central Plateau region. PiH now also operates clinics in Port au Prince and other major Haitian cities. With hospitals and a highly trained medical staff in place, Partners In Health is already mobilizing resources and preparing plans to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit. Donations to help earthquake relief efforts will be quickly routed to the disaster.

You can make an online donation to Partners in Health on their website. According to this detailed update on what they are doing to help, their "greatest need is financial support."

I am seconding that recommendation because of a similar testimonial I heard this morning from my spouse, a physician and former colleague of Paul Farmer, Partner's executive vice president, when they both practiced at the Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.

Farmer's work in Haiti was the subject of Tracy Kidder's best-selling book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. To get a sense of the story, and why my wife has total confidence in Farmer's work, here are two brief excerpts of an interview Kidder gave last year:

I had met [Paul Farmer] in 1994 and found him intriguing, but I think the decisive moment was when I saw his health center in Haiti for the first time in 2000.You travel from the airport along this horrible road where you mostly notice the absence of things: Electricity, arable land, even trees. And after three hours of witnessing unremitting misery all around you --people without food, without shoes-- you come to this verdant citadel that provides high-quality medical services to everyone for miles around, regardless of their ability to pay. I remember feeling that if it was possible for this to be here, then anything was possible.


It's amazing: They now have nine sites in Haiti, including four hospitals complete with operating rooms, and they've got AIDS under control in the entire central plateau of Haiti. I mean Haiti is still in desperate shape, but this is something good that's happened there, and they're continuing to expand. They now have about three thousand staff members of Partners In Health in Haiti, almost all Haitian, and a total of about five thousand worldwide.

Take it from my family: If you want to make a donation that will be put to immediate use to help those in need in Haiti, you can do no better than Partners in Health.

Update -  An even better testimonial from Kidder comes this morning in an op-ed in today's New York Times

But there are effective aid organizations working in Haiti. At least
one has not been crippled by the earthquake. Partners in Health, or in
Haitian Creole Zanmi Lasante, has been the largest health care provider
in rural Haiti. (I serve on this organization's development committee.)
It operates, in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health, some
10 hospitals and clinics, all far from the capital and all still
intact. As a result of this calamity, Partners in Health probably just
became the largest health care provider still standing in all Haiti.

it also offers a solid model for independence -- a model where only a
handful of Americans are involved in day-to-day operations, and
Haitians run the show. Efforts like this could provide one way for
Haiti, as it rebuilds, to renew the promise of its revolution.