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.
Haiti's infant mortality rate remains the highest in the western hemisphere. This is due in part to a lack of accessible health care facilities with sufficient staffing, training, and equipment. With funding from Every Mother Counts, Midwives for Haiti have been training skilled birth atttendants (midwives) to asist mothers during delivery. Ideally, every Haitian mother could deliver in a facility staffed by health care professionals available to them twenty four hours a day. That's isn't the reality for most Haitian mothers, making the work of skilled birth attendents critical for them and their babies. Take a look at the full Washington Post photo essay to learn more.
Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, has released a report on sexual violence in Haiti. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a human rights and a public health issue as it can cause mental trauma, unwanted pregnancies, and transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Stigma remains intense in Haiti due to lack of access to justice and survivor-centered health care. In 2015, MSF opened a clinic in Port-au-Prince that specializes in providing health and psychological support to GBV survivors. Take a look at the report (available in English and French with summary below), and if you would like to support MSF, you can do so here.
A World Bank study recommends that Haiti and its donors focus less on building hospitals and more on preventative and primary care. Haiti spends less than 5 percent of its budget on health care meaning that it must prioritize. The best run hospitals have long been managed by or co-managed with non-governmental organizations. Public hospitals are in need of serious reform. Ninety pecent of operating budgets for hospitals are for payroll with an over-emphasis on administration. Decentralization could potentially empower health facilities by allowing staff to make their own budgetary and human resource decisions. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles 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.
MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has been present in Haiti for over 19 years, including by providing 24/7 maternal health care at its clinic in Port au Prince. All contributions received between December 13-31 will be matched by ELMA Relief Foundation, a private charitable foundation that supports communities affected by disasters. If you are interested in making a contribution to help Haiti over the holiday season, protecting the health of women and children is a great way to do it. Thanks to ELMA Relief Foundation, your contribution will now go farther. For more information, read Jude Webber's article on the state of maternal health care in Haiti and MSF's role in promoting it. Click here to make your contribution.
In collaboration with Doctors Without Borders (French acronym: MSF), photojournalist Benedicte Kurzen took a series of photos with sexual assault survivors in Port au Prince. The intent of the project was to emphasize their resilience, raise awareness and promote dialogue around an important but stigmatized issue in Haiti. To learn more about gender-based violence and other human rights issues, take a look at the U.S State Department's 2015 Human Rights Report for Haiti. Stay informed about MSF's work in Haiti, consider supporting them financially, and follow Kurzen on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
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.