The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Haitian and Canadian governments launched a maternal and child health initiative today, a continuation and expansion of two existing programs. Even prior to the earthquake, Haiti was a difficult place to be a mother or a young child. Through this initiative, mothers and children under five receive basic care without cost. The intent is to progressively scale up this initiative to 90 health care facilities throughout the country. The full press release follows.
Haiti is in the midst of a cholera outbreak, the origin of which is and may remain unclear. We live in a mobile world and the source could be Africa, Asia, South America, or it may have already been in the environment. Where it came from is less important than the fact that Haiti, and especially the poorest of the poor, will always be vulnerable without clean water, adequate sanitation, and good hygiene. This is an update on the current cholera emergency and a reflection on actions that can prevent this from happening again.
The credibility of any government is determined in large part by its capacity and willingness to provide basic services. Health care can bring people together when there is equal access, or divide people when there is not. Before and after the earthquake, quality health care in Haiti was/is primarily provided by non-governmental and international organizations (NGOs/IOs). The NGOs and IOs have been instrumental in keeping disease outbreaks at bay and access to health care for many residents in Port au Prince, at least for now, is better than it was before the earthquake. While significant accomplishments, much more remains to be done before we can say that the health care system is truly being reconstructed.
The suffering caused by the earthquake is difficult to fully comprehend. Haitian authorities report that at least 72,000 bodies have been recovered. Some predict the final death toll will be as high as 150,000 in Port au Prince alone. Up to 1.5 million people may be homeless. ICRC reports approximately 55,000 people in 40 informal temporary camps throughout the city. As you read this, many people are going back to the countryside. While most of the damage took place in the southern portion of Haiti, the whole country will be affected. The Government has declared a period of national mourning until February 17. We all grieve for what Haiti has lost.
World TB Day was on March 24. If this were a blog about HIV/AIDS, I could write about the progress that Haiti and the rest of the world is making. However, this is a blog on tuberculosis and a fight we are losing. More than two billion people, one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. People living with HIV are at greater risk. For Haiti, much more remains to be done.