Haiti has long had a sanitation problem, being one of a very small number of countries where sanitation worsened over the last twenty five years. Port au Prince, its largest city, has no central sewage system and is unlikely to ever have one. There are other models for sewage management but implementing them without good governance, the rule of law, and a well-informed public is, as with anything else, challenging. However, there are champions for improving sanitation both within and outside the Haitian government. The full NPR article by Rebecca Hersher follows.
It is no secret that services at public health care facilities in Haiti are generally poor. However, these facilities are important in that they are used by Haitians who have no other alternative. Konbit Sante is a small organization based in Maine that has partnered with the Justinian University Hospital in Cap Haitian for many years. With their support, newborn and pediatric care is being moved into a new facility – but $25,000 is still needed for materials, equipment, and staffing. If you are looking for an accountable organization that is serious about capacity building, consider donating to Konbit Sante in support of the Justinian University Hospital.
On December 1st, outgoing United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered an apology of sorts, expressing reget for not doing enough to respond to cholera while not admitting that it was caused by the poor sanitation practices of UN Peacekeepers. Had this apology been made five years ago, coupled with a committment to bring an end to the outbreak no matter how long necessary, it would have meant something. Coming months before he leaves office, one has the impression that the outbreak was not a priority until recently, that he is seeking to tie up the loose ends of his legacy before stepping down, or both. The full article by IRIN writer Samuel Oakford is below and information on efforts to hold the United Nations accountable can be found at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
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.
As one of the few countries in the world where sanitation had gotten worse over the past twenty years, Haiti was highly vulnerable to the cholera outbreak in 2010. After years of obfuscation, the United Nations has finally admitted that the epidemic was imported by UN peacekeepers. That it has happened at all is testament to the efforts of Haitian civil society and the advocacy of organizations like the Institute of Democracy and Justice in Haiti. The UN intends to release a response plan in two weeks. More information from AFP 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 RAND Corportation has produced a report that convincingly argues building the Haitian state should be central to reconstruction efforts. This includes the development of skilled, trained, and properly organized government personnel and management systems within and across Ministries. The report suggests that, at least through the medium term, the Haitian government should contract out health and education services, monitoring and regulating but providing no direct services itself. It also notes the importance of developing the capacity and accountability of the Haitian National Police. A summary is copied below and the full report is attached.
The transition from emergency relief to reconstruction is happening, albeit slowly. It won’t be easy and there will be setbacks, particularly given that the rainy season is upon us along with the risks it brings of flooding, mudslides, infectious diseases, and infrastructure damage. Engineers have completed emergency mitigation measures at six of the most vulnerable settlements to protect the most vulnerable, but much remains to be done.
Today is World Pneumonia Day 2009. Every day, 4000 children die from pneumonia in Haiti and other countries throughout the developing world. This is more than HIV/AIDS, measles, and malaria combined. Despite that, it has not been a global health priority. This could change as there is more attention being given this preventable and treatable disease. While there is no single magic bullet, there are a series of proven interventions that, if scaled up, would protect and promote the health of children around the world. Click here to learn which organizations participated in World Pneumonia Day 2009 and here to learn how you can be a part of the global fight against pneumonia, not just for one day, but throughout the year.
Robert Maguire, with Trinity University and the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), recently wrote a well thought out report (attached and below) on obstacles to stability and growth in Haiti. Maguire highlights important issues such as the neglect of rural Haiti, where most Haitians live, and the need to bolster Haiti's Health and Education Ministries. Throughout, he states success depends not just on securing resources, but on allocating them in a way that is accountable, effective, and demonstrates the committment of the government to reform. Something to keep mind if investment picks up in Haiti.