World TB Day was on March 24. If this were a blog about HIV/AIDS, I could write about the progress that Haiti and the rest of the world is making. However, this is a blog on tuberculosis and a fight we are losing. More than two billion people, one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. People living with HIV are at greater risk. For Haiti, much more remains to be done.
The New York Times recently carried an article on the Carter Center's joint Haiti/Dominican Republic initiative to eliminate malaria and lymphatic filariasis from the island of Hispaniola, which both countries share. Given that infectious diseases do not respect borders, this initiative seems an excellent opportunity for collaboration between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Hopefully, it can open doors for much needed collaboration in other areas as well.
Although the floodwaters have receeded, Haitians in hurricane affected communities are still at risk. Standing water creates an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos that carry malaria and other diseases. For pregnant women and children, a mosquito net can be a life saving, yet cost effective, intervention. Partners in Health (PIH) has launched a campaign to purchase and then distribute 10,000 long lasted insecticide treated mosquito nets. Supporting this effort is a tangible way to help Haiti during the recovery process.
Today is World Health Day, a time to step back and ask if the world is becoming healthier. On some areas such as HIV/AIDS and malaria we are making progress. Yet we are falling behind in other areas such as maternal and child health. We are also ill prepared to deal with the negative health consequences of climate change - the theme for this year's World Health Day. Though it will be an issue for all of us, it will most severely affect the poorest of the poor. When it comes to public health, however, we are all in it together.
Germany recently announced that it would contribute an additional eight million Euros to CARICOM in support of its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the Carribean - broadly known as the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean or PANCAP for short. These funds will support HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs throughout the Caribbean, including Haiti.
There are more Haitian doctors in Florida than in Haiti. When you speak to them, their frustration is palpable. Many want an opportunity to give back to their country - but at the same time, they want the resources and tools they need to make a difference for their patients.
I would argue that the measurement of progress in a country is not the quantity of money a person has, not the ammount of technology possessed, but rather the ability of that country to meet the needs of its children. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has just released a report which suggests we have a long way to go, for Haiti and the world.
HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and TB are the unholy Trinity of illness in the developing world. But there are a number of less widely known diseases, which while not fatal, cause a great deal of sickness, suffering, and disability. One of them is Lymphatic Filariasis, also known as Elephantiasis. But what is it? LF is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes that bite infected humans and pick up microfilariae – thread like parasitic worms. Below is a picture.
As World AIDS Day fast approaches, now is a good time for us to pause and reflect what has been accomplished in 2007, what we've learned, and what still needs to be done.
Infant mortality is high in Haiti, needlessly so. According to the CIA Factbook, Haiti has the 38th highest infant mortality rate of 221 countries. Number 37 is the DRC! Clearly, more needs to be done to protect the health of children...the most vulnerable members of a vulnerable country.