Hesperian Manuals Aid Haiti

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:46:00 AM

Berkeley’s Hesperian Foundation is working around the clock to help earthquake victims in Haiti.  

Perhaps best known for the health manual Where There Is No Doctor, which has been translated into several languages, Hesperian rushed to provide free downloads of its Haitian Creole version, Kote ki pa gen dokte, a day after the disaster.  

The non-profit, which publishes community health books in Berkeley, reported 30,000 downloads in the first week.  

Hesperian also posted Where Women Have No Doctor (Kote Fanm Pa Jwenn Dokte) and other health materials in Haitian Creole, French and Spanish on their website (www.hesperian.org).  

According to Hesperian spokesperson Ingrid Hawkinson, news of the free material “went viral,” and was immediately picked up by organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and hundreds of volunteers.  

Doctors, nurses and aid workers in the country are also using the information, Hawkinson said.  

“The general lack of appropriate health resources in the Creole language makes Hesperian’s materials particularly useful in Haiti today,” Hawkinson said. “A lot of people who are using it are people who are about to leave for Haiti.”  

Hesperian publishes all its titles online as free downloads.  

“We are a non-profit and the whole point of our organization is that health care should be free,” said Hawkinson. “By putting these materials up there, we hope people will be able to treat each other. Poverty should not be a barrier to health.”  

Like Hesperian’s other books, Where There Is No Doctor provides medical information for people with little or no access to doctors or medical facilities so that they can prevent, diagnose, and treat common health problems without any kind of equipment.  

The book, which has been produced in more than 80 languages and is used all over the world, teaches people how to purify water, make dehydration formulas, set broken bones and make crutches with whatever materials are handy.  

One of Hesperian’s other books, Where There Is No Dentist, has tips on how to make a toothbrush out of a stick.