In Haiti and other countries around the world, mental health problems cause significant suffering by decreasing a person’s ability to complete daily tasks, work, learn, and/or build supportive relationships with others. Discussing mental illness in Haiti can be sensitive – but it is a very important and often overlooked aspect of public health.
Partners in Health (PIH) co-founder Thomas White passed away the morning of January 7th. Many lives have been saved, and the health of many communities improved, in Haiti and around the world, as a direct result of the financial support he provided to PIH throughout the years. While White will be missed, he leaves behind an inspirational legacy. Below is the PIH announcement of White's passing as well as a blog by author Tracy Kidder remembering him.
Transitions in Haiti are seldom uneventful. An imperfect election on November 28th resulted in widespread frustration and frequent (but mostly nonviolent) protests. On Tuesday, December 7th, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) will hold a panel discussion at 2:00 to discuss how the elections may influence Haiti’s recovery and how a newly elected government and the international community can best work together. Panelists include representatives from Partners in Health, the Organization of American States, and the Haitian Embassy in Washington DC. More information below.
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.
This week marked six months since the earthquake. According to President Preval, it also marked the week that the emergency phase ended and reconstruction began. Yet at the same time residents of the Corrail Cesselesse camp were struggling with the consequences of a rain storm that destroyed up to 300 tents and caused 1,700 to seek emergency shelter. With the rainy season underway, the situation is precarious for the displaced. Security, especially for women and children, is still a major concern. Is this an emergency operation, a reconstruction effort, or both?
Peace Corps/Haiti was never a very large program. However, Peace Corps Volunteers have long made a difference in Haiti both through the projects we participated in and the relationships we made. Likewise, Haiti made a difference for us, most of all, in the way we view the world. While Peace Corps is no longer active in Haiti, those who served there certainly are. All have been affected by the earthquake and all are taking action in some way. Below is a summary of what Haiti Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) are thinking, feeling, and doing in response. In this way, we both bear witness and re-affirm our commitment to stay connected to Haiti.
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.
The Clinton Global Initiative has concluded and committments were made totalling 258 million. This includes the three-year, $2 million pledge by actor Matt Damon's Water.org to get water and sanitation to 50,000 people, a $4.5 million pledge by USAID and Habitat for Humanity to repair 1,500 family homes cities wrecked by last year's hurricanes. The Green Family Foundation pledged $280,000, as part of a five year $680,000 commitment, to help fight poverty on the Central Plateau through its Millennium Village Project. Without a doubt, a great event for Haiti.
Associated Press Writer Jonathan Katz recently wrote an article entitled "From Haiti, a Suprise: Good News about AIDS." In reality, it is far from a suprise. We've long known that Haiti has been, despite numerous challenges, one of only a handfull of countries to reverse its epidemic. Treatment models pioneered here are being applied in Sub-Saharan Africa. Haiti shows us what an engaged civil society and sustained political will, backed by international support, can accomplish in even the most difficult circumstances. I am proud and hope you are as well.
Monday marked the 20th global observance of World AIDS Day. Each year, this date provides an opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished and what remains to be done. Haiti's significant and under recognized progress in its struggle against HIV/AIDS continues. In fact, Haiti's successes have been replicated in numerous countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. This is something that we can all be proud of. Below are some thoughts concerning World AIDS Day 2008.