Hope for a Healthier Haiti
Haiti is a tough place to be a kid. The infant mortality rate for 2005 (73.45 deaths/live births/per year) places it at 33rd highest out of 226 contenders. Though Haiti has made progress against HIV/AIDS, far too many young lives are lost to diarreah, respiratory infections, malaria and other conditions which can be prevented and treated.
It doesnt' have to be this way though. Celia Dugger writes in a recent New York Times article notes examples of countries that have, against the odds, made tremendous progress in child health in a realtively modest period of time. Egypt is the most dramatic. Bangladesh and
Nepal, neither of which are rich or entirely stable countries, have also made dramatic gains. What sets these countries apart? In a word, political will. We know what works, but the political will, determination, and long-term committment is what is lacking in so many countries, particularly those struggling with poverty and conflict at the same time.
How to heal a country? A robust family planning program that empowers women to have no more children than they want, an aggressive country wide vaccination strategy, ensuring pregnant women and children under five sleep under mosquito nets, and when there is a shortage of nurses and doctors, training other providers and community health workers to identify and address common illnesses.
Is this enough? No, but it is a start. Haiti should put children at the center of its health and education agendas, in coordination with donors, NGOs, and faith based organizations.
Haiti may not be rich in resources, but this article shows that this cannot be accepted as an excuse. It's time for the Haitian government to step up and lead by word and by example. The will to do better would help secure a better future for Haiti and save many young lives.