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.
The World Bank recently pledged $50 million for water and sanitation programs in Haiti. The funding will cover all clinics and schools in rural areas that are considered hot-spots for cholera. Haiti is one of a small number of countries in which sanitation deteriorated over the last twenty-five years. Investing in water and sanitation is essential for promoting public health. More information follows:
The Haitian Government and the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-NET) report that a drought is causing food insecurity in northeast Haiti due to the loss of crops and livestock. The National Coordination of Food Security Office and the World Food Program (WFP) are planning a response which will involve seed distribution to farmers and food distribution more broadly. Below is a Miami Herald article with more information.
Below is a Miami Herald article by Patrick Riley concerning the recent passing of Marie Chery. I was fortunate to be able to work with her as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thomonde. Marie was a good nurse, a model humanitarian, a strong community leader, and an excellent human being. She died too early but, thanks to her, many more people have access to health care than they would otherwise. Marie will be missed. A good way to remember her would be through donations to organizations that support health care in Haiti.
Ten Countries in the Caribbean and Central America, including Haiti, have launched a regional initiative to eliminate malaria by 2020. Both for public health and economic growth, eliminating malaria is in the interest of the entire region. This initiative is also a positive example of how very different countries can come together to address shared challenges. The Global Fund has committed to providing $10 million in support of the initiative. Click here to read about the Global Fund's support for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria programming in Haiti. The full announcement follows.
Below is a brief article from the Economist on the relationship between food security and food imports. Both aid and trade policies have long subverted domestic agriculture in Haiti. President Martelly has set a target of meeting 60% of Haiti's food needs through domestic production within three years. This is a tough row to hoe as it requires better resource management, irrigation, reforestation, and natural disaster preparedness. Food security isn't just about rice though. Greater production of yams, sorghum, manioc, sweet potatos, and corn would help.
According to Trenton Daniel and Martha Mendoza, a ten year $2.2 billion dollar plan to eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic will be released shortly. The plan will be government-led with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the WHO/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). It is yet to be determined who will fund the plan and to what extent although the World Bank has indicated it will contribute. Although it will take years, eliminating cholera is neccesary both for protecting public health and promoting investment.
Below is a National Public Radio piece by Jason Beaubien on the status of the Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital, which will be Haiti’s largest health care facility. The hospital is a priority for the Ministry of Health, which will be running the facility jointly with Partners in Health. Eventually, the Ministry of Health will manage the facility itself. When operational, the hospital will be mainly powered by solar energy. Internet connectivity opens the door to new training opportunities. In a recovery where much has gone wrong, the hospital is a symbol of what has gone right, and could be a model for replication in Haiti and elsewhere.
Plumpynut revolutionized the treatment of acutely malnourished children. In Haiti, Partners in Health (PIH) has produced a local variant, Nourimamba, since 2007. The Abbot pharmaceutical company is working closely with PIH to further improve Nourimamba and to expand production. The opening of a factory is scheduled for end 2012. This is good news for malnourished children, the health care providers who treat them, and the farmers who produce the ingredients for Nourimamba. An article by New York Times writer Duff Wilson on the PIH/Abbot partnership follows.