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.
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.
March 22 is World Water Day. Growing up, like many others, I did not appreciate how lucky I was to have clean, safe water. We need it to drink and become sick if we do not have it. We need it for agriculture and would become hungry without it. We need it for washing, bathing, and clean health care facilities. Likewise we need sanitation and hygiene to protect food, water, and health. One billion people around the world still lack clean drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. It doesn’t have to be this way. World Water Day is an opportunity to ask what we can do in the year ahead to address the world's water crisis.
Immediately after the earthquake, information came out of Haiti in a trickle. It is now more like a flood. As of February 3, the Government of Haiti (GOH) increased its death toll estimate to over 200,000. 300,000 are reported to have been injured, 250,000 homes destroyed, and 30,000 businesses disrupted. Assessments carried out by MINUSTAH now indicate a 15-20% population increase in the South, Grand Anse, Nippes, and Central Plateau departments due to displacement from Port-au-Prince. Below is a summary of where things stand in terms of emergency response and recovery.
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.
Below is a post from "The Cable", confirming rumors that Paul Farmer is considering a position in the Obama Administration. The position is as of yet unclear. It may be USAID Administrator or a new position coordinating U.S. Global Health programs. Partners in Health has had a tremendous impact in Haiti, Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere. As a champion of health and human rights, Farmer's vision and expertise would be an asset to the Obama Administration.
Friday was World Malaria Day 2008. Global health depends on controlling this global disease. It is the leading cause of death in African children and a major health concern in Haiti. It overwhelms fragile health care systems and hurts economies - the annual economic loss in Africa due to malaria is estimated to be $12 billion (1.3% loss in GDP.) Yet, we know how to prevent it and how to treat it. There has been tremendous progress made in the past year, so much so that the international community increasingly agrees that we should begin working toward eradication - in other words, a world without malaria. It would be a better world indeed.