Remarks by Dr. Jon Andrus, PAHO Deputy Director
Sixty-six hours, or nearly three days after the event, we are still dealing with a rapidly evolving disaster. Today I will update you with what we know and continue to do so as the picture becomes clearer.
Search and rescue efforts continue at a frantic pace. Every hour counts when people are trapped under rubble.
To complicate matters, communication on the ground remains
extremely difficult. This is making the collection of real-time data
A PAHO/WHO health assessment is being finalized today. Key findings
of health risks include: ensuring surgical and medical care,
obstetrical and neonatal care, adequate referral of patients with
life-threatening conditions to facilities that can adequately address
them, shelter, safe water and sanitation, preventive mass vaccination,
and management of malnutrition. We are also working on ensuring basic
primary health care services such as the provision of TB and HIV
medications for those in need.
Our PAHO/WHO ground staff have made their operating headquarters at
the medicine and vaccine storage warehouse complex near the airport.
They will be positioned to provide better management of essential
medications and vaccines.
In addition, PAHO is establishing a field office in Jimani, located
an hour and half from the city in the Dominican Republic to serve as a
bridge for the management of supplies and medical relief teams. In
other words this office will be a staging point for emergency support.
You can imagine the difficulties in coordinating fuel, food, water,
human resources, and medical supplies amongst the devastation of the
city. So having this staging point was a strategic decision made by our
director and our technical team.
We still do not know or have clear estimates of the numbers of dead
or injured. A variety of sources are estimating the number of deaths
to be between 50,000 and 100,000 people.
Bodies are being placed in the streets. The UN is the agency that
is trying to manage dead bodies. They are collecting the bodies and
taking them to a central location at their headquarters. In the last
two press briefings I have reviewed in detail critical aspects of dead
body management. You can find our technical guidelines on PAHO's
The airport remains intermittently opened and closed. All planes
landing must be self-sufficient. They must be capable of unloading
their own passengers and equipment. That includes ladders for the
medical teams to disembark.
Roads from the border town of Jimani in the Dominican Republic to
Port-au-Prince appear to be open. Supplies are arriving by tarmac too.
The Dominican Republic and Jamaica have accepted and are caring for an
overflow of injured patients from the country.
The regional and global response has been extraordinary. Haiti is
the poorest country in our hemisphere and ranks 154 on the United
Nations index, so what little government infrastructure existed has
been wiped out. Therefore, external support that is well-managed and
well-coordinated is absolutely essential in these early phases.
In the Americas, at least 13 countries have confirmed the
deployment of medical teams. In addition, six countries have sent
search and rescue teams. Many PAHO/WHO member countries are also
providing funds and supplies. Others are awaiting reports on the
assessment of needs so to best direct their support.
Countries in our Region recognize that this must be a regional
response. Haiti is everyone's neighbor. No one country alone can
conduct the response, we must all do our parts. And, indeed, the
response from countries has been phenomenal.
And, again I cannot stress enough how important it is for medical teams to be self-sufficient.
We continue to be struck by the fact that virtually almost every
person we talk to has some story of how a friend, friend of a friend,
or indeed a family member has been some how affected by the crisis in
Two of our PAHO national staff in Port-au-Prince have suffered family deaths.
Internally at PAHO here in Washington we have been worried sick
about a headquarter colleague of ours. Her husband had been working in
Haiti when the quake struck. She only learned last at midnight, more
than two days after the event, that her husband had been rescued and
was alive. What a tremendous relief. It serves to remind us that almost
everyone in some way has been affected by what is happening in Haiti.
At this phase of the crisis, we have 2 major concerns: searching
and rescuing trapped victims who may still be alive, and to that end
several teams and missions are working. Other teams are arriving as we
Our other major concern right now is the coordination of the health
response, basically how we can best use the wide range of life-saving
resources and skills coming into Haiti.
I would like to repeat, as I mentioned yesterday, that PAHO has
guidelines on how to be a good donor partner. These guidelines are
available on PAHO's website at www.paho.org.
I will stop there and welcome any questions that you might have. Again, thank you for your time and consideration.