The credibility of any government is determined in large part by its capacity and willingness to provide basic services. Health care can bring people together when there is equal access, or divide people when there is not. Before and after the earthquake, quality health care in Haiti was/is primarily provided by non-governmental and international organizations (NGOs/IOs). The NGOs and IOs have been instrumental in keeping disease outbreaks at bay and access to health care for many residents in Port au Prince, at least for now, is better than it was before the earthquake. While significant accomplishments, much more remains to be done before we can say that the health care system is truly being reconstructed.
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.
Something too often missing from coverage of Haitian development challenges are Haitian perspectives. One of the most pressing concerns remains how to halt and reverse the ongoing environmental degradation. We kick off the "Ask a Haitian" series by interviewing Abdel Abellard, a Ouanminthe based expert in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology, in order to find out what has and has not been working in Haiti.
The damage caused by Gustav and Hannah have set Haiti back years. Many have lost their homes and livelihoods. Food security, already precarious, is worse as crops have been destroyed, fruit trees knocked over, and livestock killed. Gonaives, ever prone to flooding, bore the brunt but many other cities and towns were damaged and need assistance. The implications are being felt nationwide. Haiti needs its friends during the long recovery process.
Natural disasters are a fact of life in Haiti, both in terms of the inevitable tropical storms/hurricanes and the floods/ mudslides left in their wake, largely as a result of the unabated deforestation. Gustav resulted in 22 deaths, but certainly could have been worse. While Haiti can't stop the storms, it is possible to mitigate the damage that they cause. Preparedness is key. Topix carried a Scoop Media World article on the efforts of the international community to help Haiti better prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
Friday was World Malaria Day 2008. Global health depends on controlling this global disease. It is the leading cause of death in African children and a major health concern in Haiti. It overwhelms fragile health care systems and hurts economies - the annual economic loss in Africa due to malaria is estimated to be $12 billion (1.3% loss in GDP.) Yet, we know how to prevent it and how to treat it. There has been tremendous progress made in the past year, so much so that the international community increasingly agrees that we should begin working toward eradication - in other words, a world without malaria. It would be a better world indeed.